By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
8th November 2007
Security researchers say they have discovered a program that could be
used by Islamic terrorists to launch data attacks against Western
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.
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
"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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