The Shifting Digital Sands of Online Jihad
Inspire Magazine, Samir and Anwar Are Gone
Since a drone took out the creators and editors of Inspire Magazine along with the titular spiritual leader in Anwar Alawki, the online Jihad has wound down quite a bit. The kids (stray dogs, lone wolves, the mentally ill, and the dispossessed) have not had their emails and online jihadi boards filled with the same old propaganda on how to be a good Muslim by being called to jihad as well as how to be ever so helpful as to build a bomb on your mothers kitchen table.
Of course the death of OBL also has something to do with this as well. His successor too has done nothing to reach out to the “youth” that really would have been the base had not the boys at Inspire been whacked. So, all in all the propaganda wing and the “next gen” of AQ/Salafi jihad has been pretty much been stopped for now. See, ol cranky pants (Ayman) is just that, a cranky old man yelling at the kids to get off his lawn with pedantic rhetoric on how to be a good Muslim as well.
Ayman just isn’t liked.
So, while the vacuum exists and may persist I see a some possible outcomes should someone take the reigns where the Inspire boys left off. Why do I see this now? Mostly because of the Anonymous movement and the Arab spring. These two things have changed the battlespace of the internet as well as geopolitics, it is just a matter of time I think before the Global Salafi movement latches on to the Anon model and starts to try and get tech savvy youth into their ranks and use DDoS and other methods applied by Anon and others for their cause as well.
Anonymous Becomes The Model of The New Jihad?
Of late, the jihadi boards have been quiet. The kids are not being as vocal added to the fact that there were some attacks back in December that put some of the sites down for a while. In the interim it seems, post all the hellfire missiles hitting their marks, those who are backing away from the online festival of “who’s got a bigger jihadi penis” at places like Ansar, may indeed be re-thinking things a bit. Those who have been steady users of these sites and still posting about jihad, have instead started to talk about such things as DDoS and the Arab Spring as well as hacktivism.
It seems that Anonymous has potentially sparked these guys to think like them and perhaps even use their tactics instead of continuing just to shake their fingers at us as they yell. This would be an interesting paradigm change in the global Salafi movement as well as the tactics of AQ. Though, I think that the AQ guys are so inculcated with the cult of death that they likely will not go with it. The guys at AQAP though already have been on this train for a while and before the mass whacking in Yemen, Samir and the boys were trying to figure out the new way to reach the Western jihobbyist and exhort them to do something. That something though usually meant violent jihad, and as you can see from the news, there haven’t been too many takers.
This is why I think personally, that online mayhem ala Anon is the next move that they may indeed take, and I think it will be AQAP that will lead that charge.
“If” they get some new leaders who were as savvy as Samir was.
As you can see from my earlier post concerning Inspire 6, the AQAP boys were trying to figure out a way to get the Western self interested and not so much religious set involved in jihad. I think what they really missed was that these kids do not want to carry out violence on the whole (though there are those who are mentally unstable enough and have tried.. and failed) instead, they would rather sit behind a keyboard and say things online to look all impressive but more than not, once they walk away and start to play Halo, they forget about the core principle of AQ’s jihad.. That of being canon fodder for the likes of OBL.
What Samir and Anwar Failed to Understand and Mobilize, Anonymous Has.. Mayhem without Dying
The younger generation that Inspire was trying to reach is just not so much interested in religion as well as being a shahid with the 72 virgins.. or grapes.. depends on your translation, so all the exhortations to make bombs and to blow themselves up, never mind carrying out acts that could get them arrested really appealed to the more sane of them.
Now though, with the advent of Anonymous and their tactics, I and others have been seeing hints of these jihadi skiddies getting the notion in their heads to do much the same thing. It allows them to actually carry out actions against those who they feel are oppressing them, they can brag about it, and the more skilled of them might not get caught at it. This is a real motivator I think to these malcontents and a viable option for the “online jihad” to become more than just a propaganda war, but also one of annoyance and attention.
Then again, if these kids, who really, many are, are skilled at all in hacking, though that need not be a requisite today with software today out there, then they could take down systems that could have bigger import right? There could be a real jihad online that could have kinetic effects in the real world. This is a problem as we have seen from the likes of Stuxnet and other events that show this is indeed possible. So, how long will it be before the light bulb goes off for AQAP and the greater Salafi jihad I wonder? They will have the forces they want to have an asymmetric war.. An online guerrilla war so to speak…
Perhaps the paradigm is changing and we will now have to wage an online “war” with jihad that will now not only have those purveyors and exhorters who want their minions to put together explosive vests as well as if that’s not for you, go download this tool and take down a site or two.
Anonymous Salafi Jihad.
The Next Wave of Jihad: DDoS, Defacements, and DOX-ing?
Looking into the future I can see this being a viable way that this may move. As you can see from the image above from a jihadi forum recently, they are talking about this. At present, there aren’t too many comments, but as the technology gets easier to wield (ala Metasploit etc) I am sure that as they all look on the mayhem (nuisance) that Anon has been serving up, they too might latch onto the idea and begin their own personal jihads from the comfort of their mothers basement too.
I seem to remember Bin Laden exhorting and ruminating on the jihad as not only violence but also a means to an end to bankrupt the system we have in the West. Well, look at all of the money being poured into INFOSEC now post Anonymous and their antics. Yep, you guessed it, we are spending money like crazy to plug holes that in reality may never really be plugged. Perhaps we will have another DHS just for computer security someday…
You see my point?
Don’t get me wrong.. The physical warfare will continue. Maybe even the two forces, digital and kinetic will work together to make scenarios like taking down sections of the grid etc could happen in the future if the players are serious enough. Usually I think of that as only an offering of nation states, but, given the right people and enough money, small attacks can have larger consequences right?
A pre-cursor to all of this line of thought to me is the current “cyberwar” *cough* as it is put in the media so eloquently, if not misguidedly. 0xOmar and others (also Anon’s it seems) have been waging their own battle against Israel. Doxing data of innocent people, dropping credit card numbers by the thousands, and finally, attempting to throw out a list of alleged SCADA systems for attack. This is just the type of thing I am talking about.
Now, is Omar actually just an Anon? A wanna be? Or is he just riding the crest of the wave here and will be the role model for others to latch onto in the geopolitics of the region?
Time will tell…