Program automating online jihad found in the wild

Electronic jihad 3.0

purported Al Qaeda's Cyber Warriors graphic of two greyed linked upright PC boxes -with lightning/ electricity symbol between them.

Security researchers say they have discovered a program that could be used by Islamic terrorists to launch data attacks against Western targets.

The "Electronic Program of Jihad," as its creators have dubbed it, asks for a username and password once it's installed, according to this entry on the McAfee Avert Labs Blog. The program, quoted as version 3.0, then tries to join a cyber jihadist website that coordinates the attack. Loyal users can even score bonus points by referring newcomers.

The revelation comes two weeks after Israeli news website Debkafile reported calls by an Islamist website for true believers to mount electronic attacks on "Western, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim apostate and Shiite websites". Rather than launching the assault through a network of compromised PCs, the organizers reportedly plan to supply a package called Electronic Jihad Version 2.0 that volunteers could use to unleash denial-of-service attacks against the targets.

Many security experts have said the report should be treated with a liberal dose of skepticism. They argue that Debkafile is a less-than-reliable source and say grass-roots-based cyber attacks by militant Islamists already happen all the time.

purported Al Qaeda's Cyber Warriors graphic of two greyed linked upright PC boxes -with lightning/ electricity symbol between them.

Logo unearthed by Debkafile

The icon for the Electronic Program of Jihad bears the symbol of al Qaeda's Cyber Warriors, matching one presented by Debkafile in a recent press release. Even still, McAfee researcher Francois Paget stopped short of saying the program is directly connected to the reported cyberjihad.

"I wrote this blog entry to demonstrate that at least one terrorist ring is interested in malware," he wrote. "But it seems to me, they have not reached the technical level of some criminal groups, for now."

For one thing, the system has no fast-flux network or other decentralized command-and-control features, so it would be relatively easy for someone to take it down. And for another the cyber jihadist website supposedly coordinating the attack is currently unreachable.

Similarly, Gadi Evron, a Security Architect at Afilias Global Registry Services, also discounted the likelihood that the software represented much of new threat.

"My educated guess would be that this is 'just yet another tool' that some enthusiasts on a web forum developed, Evron wrote in an email to El Reg. "There are many enthusiast 'cyber terrorists' of a low technical and operational level who deface web sites and launch DDoS attacks of varying success for clear political goals, ranging from US politics to the Middle East to the far east." ®

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