AP on June 29, 2011, reported that a jihadist Internet forum had been knocked down presumably by hackers according to counterterrorism experts.
The al-Shamukh forum appears to have been taken down by a fairly sophisticated cyberattack that hit not only the website, but the server.
Evan Kohlmann, a counterterrorism expert who tracks jihadist websites as a senior partner with Flashpoint Partners consultancy in New York, described the site as a key Al Qaeda propaganda forum.
These sites can be like spy satellites, they’re great ways of gathering information about your adversaries.
Bringing them down is like shooting at your own spy satellites. But there are others who don’t agree with that.
He said there’s been a “struggle behind the scenes” in the U.S. government about whether to allow the site to stay up.
The Defense Department said that it was aware of reports that Al Qaeda’s Internet operations had been disrupted, but could not comment on the specific incident.
U.S. and British officials have acknowledged that British intelligence authorities launched a cyberattack against Al Qaeda’s English-language Internet magazine, Inspire, taking down directions for bomb-making and replacing them with cupcake recipes.
The fact that the al-Shamukh wasn’t knocked out sooner is revealing. Forcing a website offline can be a relatively easy matter. A so-called denial-of-service attack, which floods a website’s servers with enormous amounts of webpage requests is a popular hacking activity. But it apparently wasn’t used in this instance. Instead, cyber experts said it was a more complex attack.