Al Qaeda's core jihadi websites have all been hit by an apparent cyberattack. For a group in flux, it's a big blow, but the nature of the attack raises questions about who's responsible.
Five jihadi websites that make up the core online forums promoting Al Qaeda were knocked out 12 days ago and remain mostly offline in what appears to be a major cyberattack against the group.
The simplicity of the mode of attack and its timing is leading some experts to suggest that the US is "not at the top of the list" of potential perpetrators – it could have made such an attack years ago. Instead, experts say, another country might be testing out its cyberwar capabilities against an enemy with few friends.
What is more certain is that the outage could cause multiple problems for Al Qaeda, particularly at a time when it is still reeling from the death of Osama bin Laden. Not only do the outages hamper Al Qaeda's ability to get out its message, but the scramble to establish new jihadi websites could give intelligence agencies data to locate more terrorists.
The attack "has had a huge impact on Al Qaeda in the short term because they haven't had one official release since March 23," says Aaron Zelin, a Brandeis University researcher in its Western Jihadism Project, which monitors jihadi websites. "Al Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, and North Africa haven't had any releases since then. I don't remember a time when it's been 11 days between releases."
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