October 31, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 560

Behind The Scenes of Virtual Jihad III: Al-Ekhlaas19-A Jihadi Forum or a Counterfeit Site?

October 31, 2009 | By Eli Alshech and Y. Apelbaum*
Special Dispatch No. 560

Around the recent anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, two cyber events captured the attention of many Islamists as well as that of jihadi forum experts. The first event was the concerted effort to shut down major Islamist forums, and the ultimate closure of some of them. The second was the surprising "resurrection" of Al-Ekhlaas, a prominent Islamist forum which was disabled a year ago, purportedly by Western entities. The revived Al-Ekhlaas forum, also known as Al-Ekhlaas19, appeared authentic at first sight, as it included the old Al-Ekhlaas content and even allowed users to log in using their old user IDs and passwords. The rapid deployment of the site and the apparent oddity of its reappearance, however, caused many members in the Islamist forums to doubt the new site's authenticity. This article will present a technical analysis of Al-Ekhlaas19, and will provide data which could shed some light on the forum's origin and authenticity. More particularly, it will first assess whether the cluster of Al-Ekhlaas19 sites was operated by the original Al-Ekhlaas team, and will then assess whether genuine Islamists are behind Al-Ekhlaas19 or if the forum could have been created by non-Jihadi entities, as some have suspected. ...

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