How British intelligence thwarted an online al-Qaeda magazine

How British intelligence thwarted an online al-Qaeda magazine

An interesting report has emerged from the Washington Post, claiming that British intelligence intercepted an attempt by an al-Qaeda affiliate to publish an online jihadist magazine in English.

The magazine, called ‘Inspire’, was launched on June 30th 2010. It was billed as “the first magazine issued by al-Qaeda in the English language”, and it was a call to arms for individual terrorists.

When launched, however, the front cover promised instructions on how to “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom”, and an “Exclusive interview with Sheik Abu Basir al-Wahishi”, a former aide to Osama bin Laden. But the content inside was somewhat different.

You see, pages 4 to 67 of the magazine were filled with binary nonsense, and it seems that British intelligence carried out the interception after their US counterparts opted not to intervene. It took almost a fortnight for the publishers to realize and post a corrected version.

The magazine’s front cover and contents pages were left intact in the corrupted version, so it was only the actual ‘useful’ content that was blotted.

Mikko H. Hyppönen from F-Secure also covered the piece, and he provided some snapshots of the magazine in its original form, and of the corrupted version, side-by-side:


Hyppönen also noted:

“When we analyzed the corrupted version, we thought it would be plausible that it would contain malware or exploits. However, it did not.”

It seems that al-Qaeda has since gone on to publish a further four online issues of the PDF magazine, all reportedly without any further attempts to intercept. Indeed, it seems that such a ploy is too difficult to pull-off regularly.

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