New issue of al Qaeda magazine may have been hacked
May 16th, 2013
07:24 PM ET

New issue of al Qaeda magazine may have been hacked

By Paul Cruickshank

A purported new issue of an English-language al Qaeda magazine linked to the Boston terrorist attacks was posted on an al Qaeda web forum earlier this week, but its content beyond its cover page was scrambled, suggesting the possibility the forum was hacked by Western intelligence agencies.

The magazine, produced by al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate - al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which regularly includes how-to instructions for followers to carry out terrorist attacks in the West - has received significant scrutiny in recent weeks.

Investigators believe that Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev accessed Inspire magazine, and the material had instructions on bomb-making, a law enforcement official told CNN earlier this month.

According to analysts, the explosive devices the Boston bombers built had striking similarities to a bomb recipe in the first issue of the magazine - "How to build a bomb in your Mom's kitchen" - that has been downloaded by militants in multiple Islamist terrorist plots on both sides of the Atlantic.

The purported new issue of Inspire magazine was located by Flashpoint Partners, an American outfit that tracks jihadist websites. Josh Lefkowitz, a senior partner at Flashpoint, said they detected the new posting on the administrator account of the top-tier, password-protected forum Al Fidaa - a website regularly used to disseminate propaganda from al Qaeda and its affiliates - Tuesday evening.

All the links led to the same corrupted PDF file, and within minutes, the posting had been deleted from the web forum completely.

The purported new issue titled "How did it come to this?" was dated "Spring 2013" and contained no mention of the Boston attack on its cover page, which CNN has obtained.

Previous issues of Inspire magazine have seen intervals of weeks to months between production and final publication. According to Flashpoint's analysis, the metadata on the new purported Inspire magazine shows it was last modified on April 8, a week before the Boston bombings. Metadata is electronic data on the creation and modification of files,but it can itself be corrupted.

The cover page included a content caption "Open Source Jihad," which in past issues has been a section featuring do-it-yourself terrorism advice.
Lefkowitz says there are several possible explanations for the scrambled file, ranging from a hoax perpetrated by a sophisticated hacker to intervention from intelligence agencies.

What seems not to be in doubt, he said, is that someone hacked the al Qaeda web forum.

He pointed out that when the first issue of Inspire was released in summer 2010, its content was similarly scrambled. According to the Washington Post, computer experts working for the British government deliberately garbled several sections of the magazine when it was posted online. Two weeks later AQAP released a new, corrected version of the magazine.

Lefkowitz said it is thought Western intelligence often has a window in which to disrupt al Qaeda publications before they are posted on password protected forums because the online mechanics of creating such postings - and connecting the content to multiple web links to ensure it can be downloaded - takes time.

Lefkowitz also noted that Al Shamukh, another top-tier al Qaeda web forum, went down 30 minutes after Inspire magazine was posted on Al Fidaa in what appears to have been a denial of service attack. Late Thursday the site continued to be down, according to Flashpoint partners.

Such is the concern about Inspire magazine that authorities in the UK have adopted a zero-tolerance approach to those accessing Inspire. More than 20 individuals have been arrested and prosecuted in the UK in the past 18 months for downloading the magazine, the London Times reported earlier this month.

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    • FIghtTheLastWar

      Al Qaeda doesn't exist as it did a decade ago, but it is still there. Don't believe me? Hang out in North Waziristan, Northern Yemen, or Mali...please.

      May 18, 2013 at 9:23 am | Reply
  66. FIghtTheLastWar

    Scrambling an issue of an online magazine is about as effective as trying to hold back a wave with your fist. The war that needs to be fought should not be done with drones, bombs and rifles. We are facing a clash of cultures, where the weapons are ideas. Al Qaeda offers a path that calls for self-destruction (physically and intellectually) in the name of a religion that sees no value in life in the current world and that was created to provide one individual with the means to unite unruly tribes in the arabian desert for the purpose of earthly power.

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      FightTheLastWar wrote:
      "Al Qaeda offers a path that calls for self-destruction (physically and intellectually) in the name of a religion that sees no value in life in the current world and that was created to provide one individual with the means to unite unruly tribes in the arabian desert for the purpose of earthly power."

      OK. Thank you for your ramblings on "?al qaeda, ?Islam"
      BBC: al Qaeda never existed

      "For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." (I Corinthians 11:8-9)

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      May 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply
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        May 18, 2013 at 9:21 am |
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    • wow

      Eve McDonald
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  69. George Patton-2

    Why am I not surprised by this piece of news? Western intelligence has been hacking news and every other kind of agencies for years on end, especially the cursed C.I.A. In fact, speaking of international terrorism, the C.I.A. has killed exponentially more people than Al Qaeda and any other Muslim terrorist organization ever did altogether!!! Moreover, I noticed how the right-wing thugs lately have been crying "wolf" about the Chinese hacking us. How ludicrous!

    May 16, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      I did not say this, punnie did. He is trying to make me look dumb like himself.

      May 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Reply
      • 2Bob

        I think he succeeded.

        May 17, 2013 at 4:17 am |
      • George Patton-2

        I did make that statement above, 2Bob. Don't believe my Tea Partying impostor who's just too dumb to post anything of his own or anything intelligent at all! In fact, he never got past the 5th grade i school!!!

        May 17, 2013 at 8:23 am |
      • George Patton-2

        NO I didn't make that statement above, 2Bob, tea partier phunni boy did it. I support elimination of al Qaeda terrorists by any means, good job CIA!! good job NATO!! good job US forces!! Keep hammering these Islamist bas tards.

        May 17, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Pete

      @George Patron2,hey George is watching the teli a form of hacking because that's how they get most of their language and other traits so they can assimilate like these two brothers did in Boston weeks ago..It's not hard anymore with cable tv is it!!

      May 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  70. aaron

    If only the UK government was equally strict on pedophiles as it is on terrorists. how many prominent pedophiles has it protected?

    May 16, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Reply
    • fuster

      FYI, Islam is a religion invented by Muhammad, the most famous pedophile in history.

      May 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm | Reply
      • DOROTHY

        But we have all these Christian pedophile priests who have nothing to do with Mohammed.

        May 17, 2013 at 1:53 am |
    • Jeff

      You know, like many arbitrarily contrived distinctions, pedophilia is only a matter of definition and social conditioning about such. No one, including myself should believe that children are suitable partners, they're not. However, it wasn't all that long ago that a person was declared an adult by and their body prepared for procreation with puberty. Don't even try and apply your "morally conditioned" minds to an argument or the mental side. I've known plenty of 20+ years old women not mentally ready to be a mother and I've seen 14, 15 and 16 years old girls far ahead in this capacity. It's all arbitrary.

      May 17, 2013 at 6:18 am | Reply
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