In a rare bit of humour in the on-going battle against Islamic fundamentalists, MI6 has replaced bomb-making instructions with cupcake recipes in an online al-Qaida magazine.
Hackers have been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, from the cyber-attack on the PlayStation Network to allegedly Chinese-based attack on high-profile Gmail accounts. Now British intelligence officers from MI6 based at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have put hacking skills to good use by disrupting an online jihadist magazine called Inspire, which was started and run by al-Qaida supporters on the Arabian Peninsula. The hackers managed to insert a .pdf file containing beautiful cupcake recipes into the magazine to disrupt the 67-page publication, which included an article entitled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.” When people then attempted to download the Inspire magazine, they just received garbled computer code instead - so not only would they not get info on how to make a bomb but also are left without the recipes for some nice cupcakes.
In recent weeks and months, governments have been warning about the heightened risk of cyber-attacks from all parts of the world and the US government has moved to make these attacks recognised as acts of war, indicating just how seriously they are taking this threat. This hack however took place a year ago and has only been revealed apparently as a piece of propaganda. While the British government hackers managed to disrupt one edition of the magazine, there have been four more issued published since, with intelligence officers continuing to monitor the content.
While disrupting the publication of a jihadist magazine may be seen as a way of preventing the dissemination of information, there is a much larger threat out there. Lieutenant General Rhett Hernandez, head of the US army's cyber command at a conference in London this week said a “world-class cyber warrior force" was being built up, and it is this that governments around the world will be really worried about.