Al-Qaida's Shamukh chat forum under attack, says expert

The forum used by Muslim militants has been rendered inaccessible

Al-Qaida's top-tier Al-Shamukh chat forum is facing an ongoing electronic attack, that has rendered the forum totally unreachable, according to a terrorism expert.

The attack on Shamukh is similar to one reported in June this year, and first the domain and then subsequently the underlying data server were both taken down separately, Evan Kohlmann of Flashpoint Partners said in an email late Monday.

The difference this time however is that al-Qaida now has an alternate secondary forum to distribute its propaganda and media, known as "Al-Fidaa". "In other words, shutting down Shamukh is still quite an annoyance, and it certainly causes jihadi webmasters headaches, but it hasn't had the same effect of gagging al-Qaida's media machine," said Kohlmann who has spent over a decade tracking al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

Al-Fidaa is not yet under attack, but it would be interesting to see if a similar electronic attack is launched against this forum as well.

The identity of the attackers is still not known, but it looks like someone launched a coordinated assault on the forum that was designed to cripple the whole system, Kohlmann said.

Typically, that's not the kind of thing that happens because of a lightning strike or a handful of people relying on a tool like LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon), he added.

LOIC is a network stress-testing tool that floods sites with data, making them unable to serve legitimate visitors. This type of attack is called a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

Kohlmann said in a Twitter message earlier on Monday that web domain names servicing Shamukh chat forum have come under apparent attack by unknown hostile parties. He later reported that the forum was "totally unreachable".

A threat to "cut the tongue" of U.S. TV host and comedian David Letterman was posted on the forum in August.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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