The straight scoop on hackers, al Qaeda videos & terrorist web sites

By Randy Taylor, Independent Analyst

20 September 2008: I’m up to my eyeballs with the news reports of hackers and US agencies inhibiting the distribution of videos from al Fajr and as Sahab studios. Despite what the media might report, what Bloggers on the Internet may write, or even what is being suggested by official spokespeople from private or governmental agencies, there is absolutely no truth to these reports. Here, I will set a few things straight that should forever dispel the gross inaccuracies that are currently being reported:

1. These videos (al Qaeda films produced by as Sahab) are most likely created somewhere in either Pakistan or Iran. Based on my research combined with information obtained from reliable sources within our intelligence agencies, the production is most likely taking place in Pakistan.

2. The videos are actual filmed in segments. In a case such as the 9/11 film release, Ayman al Zawahiri and the other actors are filmed at separate locations and at separate times. The footage is then loaded onto a computer where it is edited, including the insertion of applicable backgrounds. The editing process is relatively simple and can be done using a single lap top computer.

3. Once the editing has been completed, the film is either uploaded to a server of their choice from their present location, or hand carried by messenger to an upload capable location. In either case, they have many server locations from which to choose.

4. The film is then placed on multiple servers around the world under non-related file names to avoid the detection of server spiders that search out items such as this.

5. Most of the download links don’t come under scrutiny by the servers UNTIL there are multiple downloads from suspicious IP addresses and ISP locations around the world.

6. Once the server company hosting the files realizes that the film is a terrorist film, they may then disable the URL link and delete the file.

7. The links from which the films are downloaded and further disseminated on Arabic language forums cannot be disabled or deleted until the film is uploaded. Period. End of story.

There has been a great deal of misinformation in the news and on Internet Blogs lately about “white hat hackers” disabling or taking down terrorists’ web sites, thus hindering or blocking the release of propaganda videos produced by Islamic terrorists. Certainly, hackers can easily take down websites, and some have. To report that hackers with patriotic leanings have somehow managed to cause the delay in the release of a propaganda video, however, is absolutely untrue. Simply refer to the steps above should questions about this still exist.

Understand this: Until you kill the militant starring in the film, kill the guy editing the film, kill the guy who transports the film, you will not stop the film from being made or distributed.

Additionally, there have been numerous reports of Arabic language terrorist web sites “going down” or being taken offline in recent days. Although some of those could be the result of “patriotic hackers,” other explanations are far more likely. It is important to keep in mind that the al Qaeda media computer literate types rival and in many cases exceed our own. These militants employ some top notch people to produce and distribute their online propaganda.

Further, just because you cannot see a site, it does not mean that it is not there. In fact, a few sites that have been reported as being down are still there, “nesting” on multiple domains. Despite being reported as hacked out of existence, these sites continue to exist, but they are just not showing up in the same previous fashion.

We can pressure ISP’s in the US and in allied countries to remove these terrorist web sites, but there are thousands of places from which these sites can be hosted, all outside of the jurisdiction of the US government.

As a recent and pertinent illustration of the above, it is noted that as Sahab released another video yesterday:

“Condolences to our people in Aldawqa”I guess the imaginary team of “Super Hackers” invented and perpetuated by the media missed this one.

LOL. Be Safe. Stay Vigilant.