A cyberterrorist is busted but the problem remains

Irhabi 007, a major cyberhacker for Al Quaeda is under arrest in the UK, but his arrest was a matter of fortuity and many more shadowy figures continue a cyber jihad, says SITE Institute.

Rita Katz and Michael Stern of the SITE Institute write in the Washington Post about the arrest of Irhabi (Arabic for "terrorist") 007. Irhabi "hacked into American university computers, propagandized for the Iraq insurgents led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and taught other online jihadists how to wield their computers for the cause," they write.

Irhabi - actually Londoner Younis Tsouli - was arrested in a suspected bomb plot in November. Only after his arrest did British authorities realize they had the prime cyberterrorist. And that's what's troubling, Stern and Katz say:

... After pursuing an investigation into a European terrorism suspect, British investigators raided Tsouli's house, where they found stolen credit card information, according to an American source familiar with the probe. Looking further, they found that the cards were used to pay American Internet providers on whose servers he had posted jihadi propaganda. Only then did investigators come to believe that they had netted the infamous hacker. And that element of luck is a problem. The Internet has presented investigators with an extraordinary challenge. But our future security is going to depend increasingly on identifying and catching the shadowy figures who exist primarily in the elusive online world.

The article details Tsouli's involvement with Al Quaeda in Iraq and his rise to prominence but cautions that he has already shared his knowledge.

Tsouli has been charged with eight offenses including conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause an explosion, conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, conspiracy to obtain money by deception and offences relating to the possession of articles for terrorist purposes and fundraising. So far there are no charges directly related to his alleged activities as Irhabi on the Internet, but given the charges already mounted against him, it will probably be a long time before the 22-year-old is able to go online again.

But Irhabi's absence from the Internet may not be as noticeable as many hope. Indeed, the hacker had anticipated his own disappearance. In the months beforehand, Irhabi released his will on the Internet. In it, he provided links to help visitors with their own Internet security and hacking skills in the event of his absence -- a rubric for jihadists seeking the means to continue to serve their nefarious ends. Irhabi may have been caught, but his online legacy may be the creation of many thousands of 007s.



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