McAfee Labs

Mali Jihadists Support Their Struggle Online

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By on Jan 30, 2013

Yesterday in Lille, the 5th CyberSecurity International Forum (FIC2013) ended with a speech by Manuel Valls, the French Minister of the Interior. Among the subjects, the Minister informed the audience about the increasing dangers of cyberjihad.

Since January 11, France has been engaged in Mali. The Africans had appealed for urgent military aid to halt the jihadist rebels advance in the northern part of the country. The conflict is taking place both on the ground as well as online, and terrorists are intensifying their activities in the latter area.

The jihadists are using the Internet for propaganda. Lots of pictures like the following are available for download and redistribution.

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Terrorists have also threatened France and its inhabitants. Their leaders–or people who say they represent them–have created videos like the one below that I discovered during my searches. (This is a “Message to France from a mujahideen.”)

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Like cybercriminals and many law-abiding people, jihadists use forums to communicate. In the past, these were publicly available. Today they are closed, and new members are now accepted only by invitation.

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The terrorists do not hesitate to spread offensive photographs. Some were distributed not so long ago via a Twitter account driven by Somali militants with links to al Qaeda. They showed a dead white man wearing military pants and a blood-soaked shirt surrounded by three guns, ammunition clips, and protective gear. The message claimed it was a French soldier killed in the failed January 12 rescue mission of a fellow countryman held hostage. (Out of respect for the families and at the request of French authorities, we will not post these pictures.)

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Defacing websites is another frequent activity. On January 16, cyberjihadists attacked the sites of some French socialist deputies, modifying the welcome pages with propaganda images. The jihadists claimed responsibility on their websites.

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They have also threatened distributed denial of service attacks. A DDoS attack on the French Defense Ministry website was announced on a private forum on January 17.

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The Internet is also a popular tool for collecting money and recruiting volunteers. The promise of entering paradise as a martyr appears to inspire recruits.

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These examples demonstrate that terrorists can use the Internet in their struggles. These efforts are not truly cyberterrorism, but they are apparently effective.

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