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[] USA Today schon wieder: Bin Laden nutzt Steganografie und Webseiten,

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From: "Richard M. Smith" <rms -!
- computerbytesman -
To: <declan -!
- well -
Subject: Calling all amateur codebreakers
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 08:49:45 -0400


USA Today just ran an article about Al Qaeda allegedly using
steganography to communicate via Web sites using hidden messages in
ordinary MP3 and JPEG files.  I have attached the relevant sections of
the article.

Does anyone on the Politech list want to take a crack at locating one of
these files with a hidden message?  Extra credit is given if the hidden
message can be decrypted!  According to USA Today, the files are located
at and

The New York Times also did a nice article last fall on steganography:

    Veiled Messages of Terrorists May Lurk in Cyberspace

Richard M. Smith

-------- snipp ------------

9 July 2002

Militants wire Web with links to jihad

By Jack Kelley, USA TODAY 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - One Web site urges Muslims to travel to Pakistan
to "slaughter American soldiers." Another solicits donations to buy
dynamite to "blow up Israeli Jews." A third shows new videotape of Osama
bin Laden and promises film clips of American casualties in Afghanistan.
As the United States and its allies hunt them in caves, mountains and
jungles, al-Qaeda, Hamas and dozens of other militant Muslim groups are
increasingly turning to the Internet to carry on their jihad, or holy
war, against the West, U.S. law enforcement officials and experts say.
It has become one of al-Qaeda's primary means of communication, they
say. The groups use their Web sites to plan attacks, recruit members and
solicit donations with little or no chance of being apprehended by the
FBI or other law enforcement agencies, officials say.

This new cyber-battlefield is allowing al-Qaeda and other groups to stay
"several steps ahead" of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, a senior U.S.
law enforcement official says.

Most of the information on the Web sites is written in Arabic and
encrypted, or scrambled. The encrypted data is then hidden in digital
photographs, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to find or
read, officials say. The groups regularly change the addresses of their
Web sites to confound officials.

"Under the present circumstances of the global war against terrorism,
the Internet has become a vital tool and, obviously, an easy one to
exploit," says terrorism analyst Reuven Paz of the International Policy
Institute for Counter-Terrorism, an independent think tank based in
Herzliya, Israel. It's "the most efficient way (for terrorists) to
spread their message on a daily basis."

U.S. officials have little doubt that al-Qaeda and other militant groups
are using the Web to set up terrorist attacks against the United States.
They tell USA TODAY that Abu Zubaydah, 30, a Palestinian who was
arrested in Pakistan last March and is suspected of being bin Laden's
operations chief, used a Web site to plan the Sept. 11 attacks and to
communicate with the terrorists who hijacked jets and flew them into the
World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Earlier this year, officials say, they found nearly 2,300 encrypted
messages and data files in a password-protected section of an Islamic
Web site that had been downloaded onto Zubaydah's computer. The messages
began in May 2000, peaked in August 2001 and stopped Sept. 9, two days
before the attacks, officials say. They declined to identify the Web

Volume of messages doubles

Lately, al-Qaeda operatives have been sending hundreds of encrypted
messages that have been hidden in files on digital photographs on the
auction site Most of the messages have been sent from Internet
cafes in Pakistan and public libraries throughout the world. An eBay
spokesperson did not return phone calls.

The volume of the messages has nearly doubled in the past month,
indicating to some U.S. intelligence officials that al-Qaeda is planning
another attack.

Tuesday, al-Qaeda spokesman Suliman Abu Ghaith told an Arabic newspaper
that the group's suicide militants were "ready and impatient" to attack
U.S. targets in America and around the world.

Since Sept. 11, the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency say they have
hired dozens more Arabic-speaking analysts and mathematicians to
interpret and decode the information on the Web sites.

They add that there's little they can do to stop the terrorist groups
from using the Web to communicate. There are no laws directly regulating
the sites or preventing them from operating. Instead, officials must
persuade the companies that host the sites to shut them down. But as
soon as a terrorist site is taken off one Web server, it often appears
on another, officials say.

In the past five weeks, al-Qaeda's Arabic Web site,, has
emerged on three different servers, in Malaysia, Texas and Michigan. The
site was eventually removed from the servers after the Web hosting
companies, which say they often don't screen or translate the sites,
received complaints from the public and law enforcement agencies. U. S.
officials are expecting the site, which began operating in January, to
re-emerge soon.

"The U.S. enemy, unable to gain the upper hand over the mujahedin on the
battlefield, has since Sept. 11 been trying to gag the world media,"
said a statement posted on last week. "The more the United
States tries to stifle freedom of expression, the more determined we
will become to break the silence. America will lose the media war, too."

Hatred, hidden messages

There are dozens of suspected terrorist Web sites, many of which were
started after the U.S.-led war on terrorism began last fall. Most of the
Web sites are written in Arabic. All carry statements that express
hatred for the United States and its allies and fatwas, or religious
rulings, that call on militant Muslims to kill Americans and attack U.S.
interests. USA TODAY examined many of the sites and had the information
there translated from Arabic into English. Among the most prominent
sites:, a site that U.S. officials believe is linked with al-Qaeda,
is urging Muslims to travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight "the
Jewish-backed American Crusaders," or U.S. soldiers. It gives such
travelers tips on how to avoid raising suspicions of employers,
diplomats and police. 

"If you are working, either resign from your job and take a year off or
request unpaid leave from your employer. Many large companies offer
unpaid leave to their employees for periods ranging from two months to
one year. That way you can fulfill your obligation (of jihad) and not
have to give up your job," the site says.

U.S. officials say contains encrypted messages in its pictures
and texts - a practice known as steganography. They say the hidden
messages contain instructions for al-Qaeda's next terrorist attacks.
Mathematicians and other experts at the National Security Agency at Fort
Meade, Md., are using supercomputers to try to break the encryption
codes and thwart the attacks.

At least one known al-Qaeda operative has accessed the site, European
officials say. German intelligence agencies, which broke into the site
last fall, found an e-mail address for Said Bahaji, a suspected member
of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, that planned parts of the
Sept. 11 attacks. Bahaji, who was last seen in Germany, has since
disappeared., an English-language Web site also linked to al-Qaeda,
urges sympathizers to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
The Web site, which pictures Musharraf, refers to him as "the American
puppet." It calls U.S. troops in Pakistan and Afghanistan "soldiers of

"The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and
strive to make mischief in the land is only this: that they should be
murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on
opposite sides or they should be imprisoned," the site says in apparent
reference to Musharraf., a site U.S. officials believe is linked to the militant
Muslim group Hamas, is appealing for donations to purchase AK-47 rifles,
dynamite and bullets "to assist the cause of jihad and resistance until
the (Israeli) occupation is eliminated and Muslim Palestine is
liberated." It recommends donations of $3 per bullet, $100 per kilogram
(2.2 pounds) of dynamite, $2,000 for a Kalashnikov assault rifle and
$12,000 for a rocket-propelled grenade. 

Donors are asked to send an e-mail to an address on the Web site.
Recently, they received a response telling them to transfer money to
"Ahmed Mohammed Ali, Elbatech Bank, account no.: 38926/9/510 Arab bank -
Gaza branch - Palestine." The account name and number appear to change
every 48 to 72 hours. "Dear Donor: Please tell us the field in which you
prefer your money to be spent on such as: martyrdom attacks; buying
weapons for the mujahadeen; training the youth; or inventing and
developing missiles, mortars (and) explosives," the e-mail said.

U.S. officials say they are monitoring the site, which is hosted by an
American company, to see who is using it to donate to Hamas. They say
they intend to prosecute those Americans who contribute.

Until the site was taken down, carried a warning from Abu
Ghaith saying the United States should "fasten its seat belt" and
prepare for more terrorist attacks. The site, which featured the words
"No pride without jihad," also contained encrypted information that
directed al-Qaeda members to a more secure site where instructions for
attacks were given, U.S. officials say.

Other Internet sites, including, offer a 36-minute video
of bin Laden, with four minutes of previously unaired footage; pictures
of President Bush with his head in the sights of a gun; and other

Not all the Islamic Web sites are calling for a jihad against the United
States. The site has hosted chat rooms where members
criticize bin Laden and al-Qaeda for their misuse of Islam. "(Bin Laden)
is a disgrace to our religion and has made a mockery of everything we
believe," said one comment posted on "He is not an Islamist;
he is a terrorist who deserves to be killed. God bless and protect

Easy to set up

It's easy for terrorists to set up a Web site, officials and experts

In the case of, al-Qaeda members used a made-up name, "The
Center for Islamic Studies and Research," a bogus street address in
Venezuela and a free Hotmail e-mail account to contact a Web hosting
company in Malaysia called Emerge Systems, U.S. intelligence officials
say. The group then wired $87 to a Malaysian bank to pay for the cost of
the Web site for a year.

"Internet communications have become the main communications system
among al-Qaeda around the world because it's safer, easier and more
anonymous if they take the right precautions, and I think they're doing
that," former CIA counterterrorism chief Vince Cannistraro says.

But al-Qaeda operatives now are urging their members to use caution.
Just before was pulled off its server, it warned its members
that the site was probably being monitored by the FBI, CIA and Customs
Service. It promised to e-mail members the new address of the Web site
once it was in operation. It also told them they could find the address
in chat rooms on other terror sites, such as Hamas'

"We strongly urge Muslim Internet professionals to spread and
disseminate news and information about the jihad through e-mail lists,
discussion groups and their own Web sites," says a statement on "The more Web sites, the better it is for us. We must make
the Internet our tool."

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