No 'Electronic Jihad,' But Serious Threat

Rumors of a pending “cyber-jihad” led by Al Qaeda that was set to take place yesterday seemed to have been overblown.

Information security expert Paul Henry, vice president of Technology Evangelism at Secure Computing, told us last week, “The bottom line is that this is nothing to panic over. The Internet is not going to come crashing down on Nov. 11.”

The Israeli online military intelligence magazine DEBKAfile was the first to report rumors that followers of Osama Bin Laden were planning to launch a large-scale attack on Western networks and servers on Sunday, Nov. 11, using an “Electronic Jihad” program. The report was met with a good bit of skepticism across the web. DEBKAfile also reported in 2003 that Saddam Hussein would be using weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops. Still, Henry cautioned that while the threat isn’t serious, he said organizations should still exercise caution.

“The program is real, we have seen screenshots,” he said. “They are now using centralized targeting. When you log on, it automatically contacts one of three command servers and downloads a target list. We are still talking about an incredibly rudimentary attack. The program uses ping packets with a payload to overwhelm the host. It also has the ability to place enough HTTP requests to overload a web server.”

According to Henry, indications are that the organization behind the program is attempting to recruit students in the United States and Canada. He said the program’s attacks usually focus on Israeli targets and Web sites and are largely originated from countries with no cybercrime laws and that are home to Al Qaeda sympathizers, including Malaysia, Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia. Henry also added that it has been years since he had seen attacks using similar DDOS technology.

Henry called the possible attack “a good exercise to see how well they are recruiting and how the defenses react.” He also added that all three command control servers are categorized as nefarious by security software, and that most universities and institutional networks have defenses in place and anti-malware software to prevent downloads of the e-Jihad program. Henry added that blocking traffic from the three domains in question:,, and would be “viable risk mitigation.”