Review: Al-Qaeda’s Embrace Of Encryption Technology – Part II: 2011-2014, And The Impact Of Edward Snowden

April 25, 2014
Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.1086


Al-Qaeda‘s Embrace Of Encryption Technology – Part II: 2011-2014, And The Impact Of Edward Snowden

By: Steven Stalinsky and R. Sosnow*
The following report is a complimentary offering from MEMRI’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

GIMF announcement of the release of its Asrar Al-Dardashah encryption software for instant messaging.


Table Of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Edward Snowden’s Impact On Al-Qaeda’s And Other Jihadi Organizations’ Encrypted Communications
  • Al-Qaeda Media Wing Al-Sahab Moves To Using Encryption With Israel-Based Company
  • Al-Fajr Technical Committee Releases New Encryption Program
  • Islamic State Of Iraq And Al-Sham (ISIS) Launches Asrar Al-Ghurabaa‘ – The First Website For Secure Communication – To Rival Asrar Al-Mujahideen Software By GIMF       
  • Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF): Don’t Trust Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’; Releases Asrar Al-Mujahideen Encryption Software For Mac, Mobiles; Warns Of Fakes
  • Syrian Al-Qaeda Affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra Announces New Twitter Account, Gains Over 24,000 Followers Within First Days; Provides Encryption Key
  • Ansar Al-Mujadideen Arabic Forum (AMAF): Praise For Hacks Against American Websites And Offers Of Hacking Lessons; Lessons On Encryption, Tor; Quotes By AQAP Leader
  • Pakistan-Based Jihadi Organization Lashkar-e-Taiba Uses Exclusive Skype-Type Application To Plan Terror Attacks
  • Al-Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula (AQAP): Inspire Magazine And Other Publications Utilization of Encryption Technologies
  • Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen, Al-Qaeda’s Somalia Affiliate, Provides Encryption Codes
  • Shumoukh Al-Islam, The Main Al-Qaeda Forum, Provides Instructions For Accessing It Via Encrypted URL
  • Taliban English Magazine Azan Provides Encryption
  • The Internet Archive – Based In San Francisco, Used By Online Jihadis To Provide Encryption Lessons For Communicating With Al-Qaeda


In January 2007, Al-Qaeda began to use encryption tools for its online activities, particularly for communication efforts, often utilizing security software based on military grade technology. The goal was to hide messages and to protect data transferred via networks, the Internet, mobile phones, e-commerce, Bluetooth, and the like. This development was in direct response to various security breaches of its websites over the years by Western government agencies.

The issue of encryption by Al-Qaeda made news following the killing of Osama bin Laden. U.S. intelligence sources reported that much of the material seized at bin Laden’s compound was encrypted and stored electronically on computers, laptops, hard drives, and storage devices. In 2009, an Al-Qaeda deputy who was previously Osama bin Laden’s secretary, Nasir Al-Wuheishi, discussed the use of encryption software.[1] He said, “For our part, we will make contact with anyone who wants to wage jihad with us, and we will guide him to a suitable means to kill the collaborators and the archons of unbelief – even in his bedroom or workplace. Anyone who wants to give support to [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula‘s] operational side and to give tithes [to the organization] can contact us through a special email [set up] for this purpose, using the ‘Mujahideen Secrets’ software and employing the proper security measures…”[2]

In July 2011, MEMRI published a report, Al-Qaeda’s Embrace of Encryption Technology: 2007-2011, which covered the period beginning January 1, 2007, when the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) announced the imminent release of new computer software, Asrar Al-Mujahideen (“Mujahideen Secrets”).[3]The promotional material for the software stated that it was “the first Islamic computer program for secure exchange [of information] on the Internet,” and noted that it provided users with “the five best encryption algorithms, and with symmetrical encryption keys (256 bit), asymmetrical encryption keys (2048 bit) and data compression [tools].” Since then, in addition to Asrar Al-Mujahideen, GIMF has released Asrar Al-Dardashah, an encryption plugin for instant messaging (February 2013),[4] and a mobile version of Asrar Al-Mujahideen (September 2013).[5]

This report traces the development of Al-Qaeda’s encryption development efforts from July 2011 to 2014, as well as how the recent NSA leaks by Edward Snowden are impacting Al-Qaeda communications.

Edward Snowden’s Impact On Al-Qaeda’s And Other Jihadi Organizations’ Encrypted Communications

Over the past few months, U.S. and other Western political, governmental, and military leaders have noted that Al-Qaeda has changed its communications following Edward Snowden’s disclosures. Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press on January 19, 2014, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, discussed how the Snowden episode has led Al-Qaeda to change its tactics. He stated: “…[Y]ou have to remember, Al-Qaeda has changed the way they communicate based on this. That puts our soldiers at risk in the field. That’s a real dangerous consequence. Nation states have started to make changes that concern us greatly. We’re going to have to rebuild whole aspects of operations from our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines that will cost billions and billions of dollars because the information he stole and gave, which we believe is now in the hands of nation states who are doing something with it. There’s no honor in that.”[6]

Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation on January 19, 2014, Mike Morell, former deputy CIA director and NSA Surveillance Review Group member, said in reference to the Snowden affair: “So even before I left government in August, we were watching the adversaries change their approach as a result of the disclosures. So they moved very quickly to adjust to the [data] collection that we were doing against them. And I don’t know it, but I would imagine my former colleagues are working aggressively to adjust as well.”[7]

A November 7, 2013 New York Times article quoted John Sawers, head of Britain’s secret service MI6, as saying: “The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, and they’ve put our operations at risk… It’s clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee. Al-Qaeda is lapping it up.”

Iain Lobban, director of the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters, which provides signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the British government and armed forces told the New York Times that terrorist groups in Afghanistan, South Asia and the Middle East as well as “closer to home” have discussed the Snowden leaks, and that they have assessed “the communications packages they use now and the communication packages they wish to move to… to avoid what they now perceive to be vulnerable communications methods.” The newspaper also quoted Andrew Parker, the head of Britain’s domestic security agency MI5, as saying that the Snowden leaks had caused “enormous damage” to British security, “handing the advantage to the terrorists.”[8]

In fact, many online jihadis have paid attention to what information was revealed by Snowden, in addition to praising him and at the same time issuing warnings for caution about their communications.

Another sign that the Snowden leaks have impacted Al-Qaeda’s communications was the March 15, 2014 release of Issue XII of Al-Qaeda’s English-language magazine Inspire. Since its launch in 2010, Inspire has been known for its efforts to reach out to potential Western recruits. These efforts appear to have been successful; to date, over 20 young people have been arrested on terrorism-connected charges with copies of Inspire in their possession. Shortly after this issue came out, British Metropolitan Police issued a warning that anyone found reading the magazine could face prosecution.[9]

The latest Inspire-connected arrest was on March 17, 2014, when 20-year-old Nicholas Teausant of California, who according to the affidavit wanted to bomb the Los Angeles subway system, was taken off an Amtrak train in Washington state at the U.S.-Canada border and charged with attempting to provide assistance to Islamic extremists in Syria. He is being accused of exploring ways to support violent extremist activities since October 2013.[10] The affidavit also notes that he had been active on social media and had posted jihad-related content on his Instagram account. According to the indictment, Teausant frequently referred to Inspire; in one incident he became upset by something in it and texted the informant, “We have to do something now!”[11]

Issues I through XI of Inspire provided readers with encryption information for securely contacting the magazine. One of Teausant’s Instagram posts includes a photo of his computer screen showing him using the GIMF’s Asrar Al-Mujahideen (“Mujahideen Secrets”) encryption software, which Inspire provided to its readers, along with its own encryption key, for readers to communicate with it (this issue, however, announces that AQAP is suspending its email account). In the post, Teausant explains what it is and writes that he can use it to communicate with the Taliban and Inspire: “Lol its Arsar Al-Mujahideen program it allows you to encrypt messages and safly send them to the taliban repersentitives… also allows me to talk to the creators of ‘Inspire.'”

On his Instagram account, Teausant explains what “Mujahideen Secrets” software is and how he can use it to communicate with the Taliban and Inspire.

This issue of Inspire, the first since the Edward Snowden affair, includes a focus on Internet security. Most significantly, it notes on the first page, in all-capital letters: “DUE TO TECHNICAL AND SECURITY REASONS, WE HAVE SUSPENDED OUR EMAIL ADDRESSES TEMPORARILY.” Since, as mentioned, Inspire has always provided email addresses and encryption information for readers wishing to contact it, and, as a major part of its outreach efforts, urged readers to write in, its decision to suspend its email is meaningful.

It is worth noting that this issue includes praise for Snowden, as well as for other Western leakers such as Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. It notes under the heading “Questions We Should Be Asking”: “If those making blasphemy against Islam have the right to express themselves, why aren’t the actions of Assange, Snowden, Manning and Hammond considered freedom of expression?”

The cover story, “Shattered: A Story About Change,” by Abu Abdillah Almoravid, who also authored an article in the previous issue of Inspire, focuses on the immoral nature of America and, in another mention of Edward Snowden, how he helped unmask it. It stated: “Obama lied in regard of the NSA program. He asserted it did not spy on its citizens. But every dog has its day, and NSA’s day came when the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the No Secret Agency’s dark secrets. The people called for the government to observe the American principles but it did not listen. It abandoned all its privacy policies. This rogue country did not stop at spying on its citizens, it killed them too. Several of its citizens have been targeted in their extra judicial killing program.”[12]

Praise for Snowden can also be found in Issue III of the English-language online Taliban magazine Azan, released August 26, 2013. An article in it, titled “The Statue of Liberty Is In Reality The Statue Of Slavery In The Early 21st Century,” stated: “Now let’s look at the ‘freedom’ on the other side of the world. The U.S. claims to be the champion of ‘freedom’ in the world while at the same time running huge internal programs that spy on the personal lives of its own people! Edward Snowden, whowas an employee at the NSA (National Security Agency), laid bare the U.S. government’s infiltration into the personal email, phone and social media records of its people.”[13]

Also following the Snowden leaks, on August 30, 2013, Mula’ib Al-Assinnah, a senior member of the leading jihadi forum Shumoukh Al-Islam warned online jihadis not to use Google’s Gmail because Google is part of the National Security Agency (NSA). In his post, titled “What is the Best Free and Most Secure Email [Service]?” Al-Assinnah expressed his astonishment that senior jihadi writers as well as media foundations continue to use Gmail. Wondering why no one has yet to warn online jihadis about this “dangerous” issue, Al-Assinnah wrote: “[T]his is one aspect where I have recently noticed the brothers to be regressing and lax in their attention to security… I would like to ask the experts what is the best website that offers free and secure email services.” Responding to Al-Assinnah’s post, Abu Safiyyah, another senior member of the forum, stated that using the Asrar Al-Mujahideen (“Mujahideen Secrets”) encryption software in conjunction with identity concealment software represented the key precautionary measures in terms of communications.[14]

Al-Qaeda Media Wing Al-Sahab Moves To Using Encryption With Israel-Based Company

On April 9, 2014, Al-Qaeda’s media wing Al-Sahab announced an upcoming open interview with Maulana Asim Umar, head of the Al-Qaeda Shari’a Committee in Pakistan. The announcement said that people could submit questions in Urdu, Arabic, English or Pashto, and included both a Yahoo and a email address to where questions could be sent.

Safe-mail, which according to its WHOIS and to a January 31, 2014 Forbes report is based in Israel, bills itself as “the most secure, easy to use communication system. It includes encrypted mail system with collaboration features and document storage functions. Always accessible at any time from anywhere!” It also states that “Safe-mail is designed to provide maximum security and privacy without any complexity. Banks, law firms, health care, accountants and similar professional organizations will not provide security unless requested by you! Remember, your information is yours only. Your privacy is at risk when you communicate. Do not do business with any of the above unless your valuable information is protected!”[15]

Al-Fajr Technical Committee Releases New Encryption Program

On December 10, 2013 a new encryption program called ‘Amn Al-Mujahid (“The Mujahid’s Security”) was released on top jihadi forums. The entity behind the release was the Al-Fajr Technical Committee (FTC).

The FTC, established in September 2012, aims to develop and improve jihadis’ technical knowledge and capabilities to achieve superiority over the enemy in media and propaganda. Previously, the group had stated that it operates openly and that jihadis can contact it via its accredited accounts on the Al-Fida’ and Shumoukh Al-Islam jihadi forums.[16]

‘Amn Al-Mujahid is the latest addition to the list of encryption programs used by jihadis, including for instant messaging[17] and for use with mobile phones.[18] Until the FTC released this program, the leading group developing and releasing encryption programs has been the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), whose Asrar Al-Mujahideen (“Mujahideen Secrets”) was first released in 2007 and has been updated several times since. There were, however, other “not trusted” attempts at encryption programs for jihadis; the use of them is generally warned against and thwarted. For example, two weeks previously, a jihadi forum associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) released an encryption program called Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’. Shortly thereafter, however, the GIMF warned jihadis against using it, calling it “not trusted.”[19]Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ was allegedly developed by ISIS members and their supporters.[20]

The ‘Amn Al-Mujahid program uses public-key cryptography, and is Windows OS based. It has Arabic and English versions.[21]

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Fajr Media Company announced the establishment of its Technical Committee on September 17, 2012, to handle technical issues for Al-Qaeda’s two trusted forums, Al-Fida’ and Shumoukh Al-Islam. The committee was aimed at working with online jihadis to develop and improve their technical knowledge and capabilities, and to surpassing the enemy in media and propaganda.

The committee, which apparently comprises a cadre of Al-Fajr technical experts, was to operate overtly. Individuals can contact them via private messages on these forums, or via other means that Al-Fajr said that it would disclose. The committee also aimed to organize the work of the technical subsections on these forums, in addition to developing and designing encryption software, inter alia.[22]

The first use of the new ‘Amn Al-Mujahid encryption software by another online jihadi group was in Issue 53 of the online Al-Waqi’ magazine, which was released on December 30, 2013. The magazine provided its public key to those wishing to contact it, using the encryption program (in contrast to the usual use of Asrar Al-Mujahideen), and also provided a Yahoo email address.

Islamic State Of Iraq And Al-Sham (ISIS) Launches Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ – The First Website For Secure Communication – To Rival Asrar Al-Mujahideen By GIMF

On November 27, 2013, an announcement was made on Shabakat Al-Iraq Wal-Sham, a jihadi forum associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), of the launch of the Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ project. The project, which, according to the announcement, was launched by the ISIS mujahideen and their supporters, facilitates the exchange of secure communications among individuals.

Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’, which is a play on the name of Asrar Al-Mujahideen – the GIMF’s flagship encryption program used by Al-Qaeda affiliates and their supporters – is based on a webpage ( that allows jihadis to encrypt and decrypt messages. The webpage, however, does not provide a means of transmitting those messages, but only of encryption and decryption. Messages must be sent by other means, such as email, instant messaging, and the like.

According to its developers, Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ is more accurate, secure, and user friendly than Asrar Al-Mujahideen, and was conceived with the help of “specialist brothers” who contributed their ideas. It requires no software download or installation, which eliminates one of the major drawbacks of Asrar Al-Mujahideen – that is, the risk of downloading infected or missing files.

Other features of the new Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ project, according to the announcement, is that it uses a special or unique encryption algorithm. It is not clear exactly what that means, but it could mean that it uses a proprietary encryption algorithm. If this is the case, then Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ might not offer the secrecy that it claims. The use of proprietary encryption algorithms is generally avoided in cryptography due to the relative weakness of such algorithms in the face of an attack. Moreover, the strength of a given encryption scheme is based on the secrecy of its key rather than that of the algorithm. Trusted algorithms are those that have undergone and withstood public review and extensive testing.

Additionally, Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ can be accessed from practically anywhere with an Internet connection, including on mobile phones. This poses yet another security issue for its users, due to the possibility that they could be tracked when visiting the webpage. It is noteworthy that the webpage of Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ is accessible via Tor, and its encryption/decryption features function seem to be normal in that environment.[23]

Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF): Don’t Trust Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’; Releases Asrar Al-Mujahideen Encryption Software For Mac, Mobiles; Warns Of Fakes

GIMF Warns Against Using Rival Encryption Software Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’

The GIMF, creator of Asrar Al-Mujahideen, released a statement warning jihadis against using Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’, promising jihadis the means to exchange secure communications with each other.[24] Calling Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ suspicious and saying that its source was not trusted, it further noted that there was no relationship between Asrar Al-Ghurabaa’ program and GIMF’s own Asrar Al-Mujahideen. GIMF also warned jihadis against using any encryption program whatsoever that was not released by the Al-Fajr media center or by the GIMF itself.[25]

The following are details on GIMF’s further development and release of additional encryption software.

Jihadi Forum Post: Tutorial On Installing And Running Asrar Al-Mujahideen Encryption Program On Mac OS

On October 19, 2013, a tutorial on how to install and run GIMF’s Asrar Al-Mujahideen encryption program on Mac OS was posted on the Al-Fida’ forum. The tutorial, posted on Al-Fida’ by one “fady mokhtar,” included step-by-step instructions for installing and running Asrar Al-Mujahideen on Mac OS using CrossOver, a Microsoft Windows compatibility layer for Mac users.[26]

GIMF Releases Mobile Encryption Program For Secure Communication Between Jihadis

On September 4, 2013, the GIMF released a new encryption program which provides a secure and safe environment for jihadis to exchange text messages, files, and emails via Android and Symbian-supported cellphones.

According to GIMF, some of the special characteristics of its newly-released Mobile Encryption Program are its ability to provide the highest level of encryption available to exchange text messages via cellphone and to send encrypted files via email and instant messages by using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Moreover, the program supports digital fingerprint, has the ability to send 400 character-long SMS messages in Arabic and English, works with most email providers, doesn’t allow access without providing a password, and has the ability to send and receive encrypted messages from Android-supported cellphones. This last feature, the statement said, is not available in similar applications available from well-known companies. GIMF published links to its website which provide detailed instructions on how to download and set up this program.

In return, jihadis have expressed jubilation about the new technology at their disposal and hailed GIMF’s efforts on the matter. One jihadi on the Shumoukh Al-Islam forum offered a step-by-step tutorial on installing the software on a user’s cellphone.[27]

Following is the original English-language announcement from GIMF’s official website regarding the Mobile Encryption Program:[28]

“…In light of the growing need to protect privacy and to escape from the repressive police regulations, your brothers in the Technical Department of the Global Islamic Media Front are pleased to present to the Islamic Ummah in general and the Mujahideen and Ansar of Jihad in particular, the mobile encryption program. This program features asymmetrical encryption, along with the ability to encrypt SMS and files, sending and receiving emails, and receiving messages effectively and efficiently with the use of advanced techniques to maintain security and privacy, both during sending and receiving, or when saving messages. We announce that this program, like all the sites and programs that we develop, is the property of all Muslims…

“The mobile encryption program offers the highest levels of encryption for secure communication through SMS along with the ability to send encrypted files through email. It is the first Islamic encryption program for mobiles and secures communications with the greatest degree of secrecy based on the highest standards reached by cryptography and the engineering of digital communications.

“The program uses the cryptographic algorithm Twofish with cipher block chaining which has the same strength as the algorithm for the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). It uses elliptic curve encryption in exchanging keys with the keys encoded to 192-bit length. It was necessary to use elliptic curve encryption instead of the base encryption RSA because it is very long, and it’s not possible to store it in SMS nor use it with the Bouncy Castle libraries which use algorithms and methods of encryption with tested capabilities proven to be effective. This library does permit developers to change the random algorithms to protect against any misuse or abuse.

“The program supports digital fingerprints, so any user can display a digital fingerprint for his public key. Of course, it’s possible to send the fingerprint or publish it to assure recipients of the public key. All encrypted files have a digital fingerprint, and the program uses them when decrypting to verify the file has not been tampered with. This fingerprint can be published to confirm to the recipients that the file is sound. The block chaining cipher mentioned above is very important to encrypt the files because if someone tried to tamper with any digital file, the file becomes corrupt when trying to decrypt it.

“Also among the characteristics of the program is the ability to send SMS of 400 characters in length in Arabic and English. The program works with a number of languages, and it can send encrypted files between two mobiles differing in language settings without problem with the ability to send encrypted files through email with the use of SSL and can add port settings to support SMTP and POP3. The program works with most email hosting providers.

“Furthermore, one cannot access and use the program without entering a password. Storage inside the program is encrypted as is the storing of private addresses in the program, as the addresses found on the mobile can’t be accessed. The program does not allow sending messages that are unencrypted to a recipient who has been added, so if the user did not receive a public key, this means that it’s not possible to encrypt a message, and the program does not allow sending a message unencrypted to protect the user.

“Lastly, among the most important features of the program is the ability to send and receive encrypted messages with Android mobiles and vice versa, and this feature is not available even in the most important similar applications which are programmed by well-known companies.

“Therefore, the mobile encryption program is the best means for instant communication through SMS and encrypted files through email between the two users. It offers a level of encryption that cannot be undone or broken and can be relied upon to protect the confidentiality of communication…”[29]

GIMF Releases Encryption Software For Instant Messaging

On February 6, 2013, the GIMF released Asrar Al-Dardashah, an encryption plugin for instant messaging, on the top jihad forums, as well as on its official website ( Asrar Al-Dardashah relies on Asrar Al-Mujahideen, GIMF’s primary encryption program that the former released back in 2007.

Video tutorials, in Arabic and English, linking to YouTube were provided on the GIMF website. Tutorials were also provided in German, Urdu, Indonesian, Pashtu and Bangla. It is noteworthy that previously, GIMF had relied on various blogs to disseminate its material, such as the now-defunct or, which contained the group’s public key for use in encrypted communication. GIMF’s current website is hosted by the Singapore-based M1 Connect Pte. Ltd. Its Whois information is registered with Network Solutions as follows:

Administrative Contact:  

Domain, John


care of Network Solutions

PO Box 459

Drums, PA 18222


Phone: 570-708-8780

Technical Contact:  

Domain, John


care of Network Solutions

PO Box 459

Drums, PA 18222


Phone: 570-708-8780

Record expires on 16-Apr-2013

Record created on 16-Apr-2012

Database last updated on 16-Apr-2012

The welcome message states: “Peace be upon you, and Allah’s mercy and blessings. All praise be to Allah, and may prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family, his companions, and those who follow him. Thereafter: This website is the result of the efforts and work of the unknown sincere loyal soldiers – as we consider them, and Allah is their Reckoner – who have worked their hardest in order to present the best things possible to their Ummah. They have done everything they can regardless of the weakness of their capabilities. Despite that, their work was of concern to their enemies and given thanks and prayers by their beloved ones. They ensured their knowledge and work supported their Mujahideen brothers and stood like an impenetrable wall in front of the cyberwar associated with the Crusader military campaign by their enemies. With this, they work under conditions where much work cannot be done. We ask Allah to reward them with the greatest of rewards. This website is the technical arm of the Global Islamic Media Front, and therefore it is a reference for all Muslims who can benefit from it. Without a doubt, it is a small kernel which we will work on to grow larger in the time ahead, Allah the Almighty willing. We ask Muslims upon whom Allah has bestowed the knowledge to know how to promote this website to offer what can benefit their Ummah generally and the Mujahideen particularly. Your brothers in the Global Islamic Media Front Technical Department”

The website also includes contact information, as follows:

With the new Asrar Al-Dardashah plugin, GIMF promised “secure correspondence” that is “highly technical in encryption [and] that is above globally existing levels of encryption.” The technology, it said, would enable secure communications based on the “highest standards reached by cryptography and digital telecommunications engineering.” Asrar Al-Dardashah uses the Pidgin chat client, as the latter supports multiple chat platforms, including Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, and Jabber/XMPP.

GIMF said it had decided to play a leading role in the media battle between the mujahideen and their enemies, while sparing “no effort” in offering support to the mujahideen.

Following is the original English announcement regarding Asrar Al-Dardashah from the GIMF’s official website:[30]

“…The ummah is suffering from the weakness and shortcomings of the media. This has not been for a short time, but instead a long period. We believe that this weakness was created on purpose by the regimes that rule the lands of the Muslims, for the Islamic world possesses many material capabilities and factors, but, despite that, there is great scientific delay. The reason for this is the intentional plan to keep those tyrants’ control over their oppressed peoples and [to] keep the children of the ummah away from all that would achieve a true renaissance in the Islamic ummah. Therefore, they have not expressed any interest in promoting the media in the required manner.

“The jihadi media – which is the principal arm for speaking on behalf of the mujahideen all over the world – shared in the weakness of the media due to the war that was and is still being exercised against it, whether by the Crusader campaign from the West or the rulers who betray their Islamic peoples. For many of the works of the mujahideen have been lost and did not appear in the right way to the world, especially in the war of the mujahideen against the Soviet Union, Bosnia, and other [enemies on] jihadi front lines.

“With the appearance of the internet, this became an important new means for the mujahideen to be able to express themselves and deliver their word. There is no doubt that they have used it well, despite the lack of capabilities they have, and even with the pursuit, trials, and criminalization by unjust governments. Yet despite all of this, the mujahideen have been victorious in the media war against the West. In March 2006, Eric Clark, the official spokesperson for the American Central Command, acknowledged that the Al-Qaeda organization won the media war against the United States, and he clarified that Al-Qaeda works through the Internet to provide a new technical level and harness it for its use. This represents the driving force of those who mobilize everywhere in order to extol a specific concept for the Islamic world’s opinion, and even the world.

“Therefore, we still say that the youth of the ummah were endowed by Allah with the knowledge to know to support this religion with all the knowledge they were given, and that this support reaches an individual duty that is fulfilled only by doing it. Therefore, every sincere Muslim who wishes to support his ummah in this Crusader war led by America, and in which it is aided by the Islamic world’s rulers, should not delay in offering support to the mujahideen and the available means of communication, praise be to Allah.

“Allah has facilitated in this media battle that the Global Islamic Media Front be the spearhead in this battle, and has resolved to spare no effort in offering support to the mujahideen. Allah has facilitated in the technical field its designing of the program Asrar Al-Mujahideen. It is a program for encrypted text conversations, thereby recording a distinct development in jihadi media. In extension of this path, today, they announce the designing of an ‘Islamic Encryption Plugin’ for the encryption of text conversations directly through the Internet through chat programs.

“And, in conclusion of this introduction, we thank all the brothers who programmed this plugin, and [pray] to make their work be in the path of Allah and [that He] grant them a reward for all who helped or benefited this work in the path of Allah. Likewise, we are honored to dedicate this work to the martyrs – with Allah’s permission – of the jihadi media, who wrote pages of light along the journey of the jihadi media, and especially among them the brother Seif Al-Din Al-Kanani, may Allah have mercy on him; and the brother Abu Dujana Al-Khorasani, may Allah have mercy on him; and the brother Abu ‘Omar Al-Pakistani, may Allah have mercy on him. We dedicate this to all of the media foundations and to all the prisoners from the jihadi media, may Allah release them.

“Asrar Al-Dardashah offers the highest levels of encryption for secure communication through instant messaging. It is the first Islamic encryption plugin which relies upon the Islamic encryption program Asrar Al-Mujahideen for secure correspondence through networks. It is highly technical in encryption that is above globally existing levels of encryption [and] which secures communications with the greatest degree of secrecy, and is based on the highest standards reached by cryptography and digital telecommunications engineering.

“The Asrar Al-Dardashah plugin supports most of the languages in the world through the use of Unicode encoding, including Arabic, English, Urdu, Pashto, Bengali, and Indonesian. The plugin is easy and quick to use, and, like its counterpart, the Asrar Al-Mujahideen program, it uses the technical algorithm RSA for asymmetric encryption, which is based [on] a pair of interrelated keys: a public key allocated for encrypting and a private key used for decrypting. To use the plugin, both of the communicating parties should install and activate the plugin and produce and import the Asrar Al-Mujahideen private key into the Asrar Al-Dardashah plugin, which automatically produces the corresponding public key of 2048-bit-length for use. When Asrar Al-Dardashah is activated by the two parties, the plugin automatically exchanges the public keys and activates RSA encryption. The users can confirm their public keys before the chat [commences], in order to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, and [can] confirm that they are speaking with the desired person by comparing their Public Key Fingerprints through another channel.

“The Asrar Al-Dardashah plugin is small in size and installs in seconds for use with the program Pidgin for instant messaging. Pidgin was chose[n] because it supports many of the protocols and networks for instant messaging, including Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, and Jabber/XMPP.

“The Asrar al-Dardashah Plugin has many features: Firstly, it is easy to use and only requires exchanging the Key Fingerprint to confirm the integrity of the each public key. Afterwards, using the plugin is quick and easy. Secondly, Asrar Al-Dardashah does not require any special technology or expertise. Nor does it require the installation of complex files or long text that can be corrupted. All a user has to do is activate the plugin by clicking on the plugin’s icon to turn on encryption. Then, the plugin automatically encrypts the communication without any other effort on the part of the user.

“Thirdly, the Asrar Al-Dardashah plugin is trusted for use in secure communication, due to its reliance on the Asrar Al-Mujahideen encryption program, which, for several years, has been the only reliable and safe program for use in the communications of the mujahideen and the Ansar. Therefore, the Asrar Al-Dardashah plugin is the most preferred means for secure instant messaging between users. It offers a level of encryption which has not been cracked or broken and can be relied upon entirely to protect the confidentiality of sensitive communication[s].”[31]

GIMF Warns Of Fake Jihadi Encryption Software

On April 24, 2012, the GIMF posted a message on jihadi forums urging its members not to spread rumors about it. Al-Shabab had been experiencing internal problems, after one of its operatives, the American ‘Omar Hammami, aka Abu Mansour Al-Amriki, released a video claiming that elements in the group were trying to have him killed,[32] and after Hassan Dhaher Aweys, head of the Somali opposition group Hizb Al-Islami, dissolved his movement’s union with Al-Shabab.

The message also reiterated its warning (from December 2011) that a fake version of the encryption program Asrar Al-Mujahideen has been distributed on the Ushaq Al-Hur Al-Islamiyya website; and added that a newer version of program will soon be released online.

The following are excerpts:

“We have received many messages about certain issues in Somalia and news reports that had been leaked, regarding which we wish to clarify:

“1) Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen is a jihad movement which has been vouched for by jihad leaders throughout the world. [Moreover, religious] scholars have confirmed the soundness of its doctrine and faith, as reflected by its efforts to implement Allah’s law, by its statements, and by its allegiances and enmities, which conform to Allah’s [directives]. Everyone has testified that it wields power [in Somalia], and that the Muslim people of Somalia are united in their support for it.

“2) A short while ago, [GIMF] announced [the holding of an online] conference with [Al-Shabab spokesman] sheikh ‘Ali Dheere, may Allah protect him. This conference was open to all questions, and indeed many questions were asked regarding the jihad in Somalia and the situation of the mujahideen and the muhajirun [i.e., people who come from abroad to wage jihad]. We are waiting for Al-Kataib [Al-Shabab’s media company] to publish the answers.

“[In the meantime], we forbid the spreading of any false or untrustworthy reports regarding anything to do with Somalia. We advise our brothers [the members of the jihadi forums] not to help the US State Department’s Digital Outreach Team that has been charged with the task of defaming Islam and the mujahideen everywhere.”[33]

GIMF Warns About Fake Download Of “Asrar Al-Mujahideen” Encryption Software

On December 15, 2011, the jihadi forum Shumoukh Al-Islam posted “an important and urgent warning” issued by the GIMF regarding a dangerous download that has been distributed on the website ‘Ushaq Al-Hour Al-Islamiyya. The message explains that the download is described as a new version of the encryption program “Asrar Al-Mujahideen” (Mujahideen Secrets), but is in fact a Trojan horse, and adds that no new version of this encryption program has been distributed since “Asrar Al-Mujahideen 2.0” was launched several years ago by the website Al-Ikhlas Al-Islami.

GIMF states further that many intelligence agencies have attempted to create fake copies of the “Asrar Al-Mujahideen” program, but have not succeeded. Nevertheless, it warns the readers not to rely on the encryption program alone, because “if the enemy cracks it, everything is revealed to him: he can read the encrypted message and even take over the computer and all the files in it, as he wishes.” Therefore, the mujahideen are advised to “use the best and safest systems, as well as a firewall and keyboard encryption software.”

GIMF concludes by warning that no message regarding “Asrar Al-Mujahideen” should be considered authentic unless it is issued by GIMF itself or by the Al-Fajr media company, and promises that new downloads of “Asrar Al-Mujahideen” will be released soon.[34]

Syrian Al-Qaeda Affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra Announces New Twitter Account, Gains Over 24,000 Followers Within First Days; Provides Encryption Key

On August 25, 2013, the Syrian jihadi group and Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN) announced its new official account on Twitter (@JbhtAnNusrah). Within 24 hours, the group’s Twitter account had over 24,000 followers.

JN first appeared on Twitter in June 2012 under the name @JbhatALnusra; that account had over 76 thousand followers, with its last tweet on April 9, 2013.

In announcing its new Twitter account, JN thanked all of those who supported it and assisted it in disseminating its material. It also urged everyone to show additional support, since, it said, the battle is at its fiercest stage.

In its communique, JN said that its Twitter account will be the only official source for the group’s media and military-related statements, audio and video productions, and official statements. JN also reiterated that its materials are also published via its accredited account on the Shumoukh Al-Islam, Al-Fida’, and Ansar Al-Mujahideen jihadi forums.

JN said also that it currently has no official website or forum of its own, and it does not have an official Facebook page.

Those previous outlets, said the communique, are used only for releasing JN’s media-related work, and will not be accepted as means to making any military, administrative, or other arrangements between JN and other militant groups.

JN also welcomed any media-related comments or advice, and provided its Public Key for secure communication with it via Asrar Al-Mujahideen second edition encryption software, as follows:

#—Begin Al-Ekhlaas Network ASRAR El Moujahedeen V2.0 Public Key 2048 bit—













#—End Al-Ekhlaas Network ASRAR El Moujahedeen V2.0 Public Key 2048 bit—[35]

Ansar Al-Mujadideen Arabic Forum (AMAF): Praise For Hacks Against American Websites And Offers Of Hacking Lessons; Lessons On Encryption, Tor; Quotes By AQAP Leader

On January 2013, it was reported that several American websites were hacked by one Abu Ubayda Al-Masri (“Abu Ubayda the Egyptian”). The message he left on the websites, which appear to have been chosen at random, stated that the attack marked the anniversary of the December 30, 2009 suicide bombing by Humam Al-Balawi, aka Abu Dujana Al-Khurasani, against CIA and Jordanian intelligence personnel near Khost, Afghanistan.

Al-Masri’s cyber-attacks were praised on leading jihadi forums, including on Ansar Al-Mujahideen Arabic Forum (AMAF). On that forum, one Abu Jafar welcomed the attacks on the “American Crusader” websites. Interestingly, Abu Jafar complained to fellow forum members that his Facebook account, where he had posted the news of the hacking, had been shut down four times due to his posting of this information. Abu Jafar also asked fellow members for help in accessing his blocked Facebook pages, or, alternatively, for information on protecting his account from any future deletion. He also offered his services to jihadi forum members, saying that he was willing to start a workshop on “device hacking, encryption, and [computer] programming.” He added that he was still a novice hacker, having begun doing so less than a month previously.[36]

Hacking has been used by pro-jihad and anti-American hackers to make political statements, and also has been used to express rivalries amongst Muslims themselves.[37]

AMAF’s Twitter account (@as_ansar), which was opened April 13, 2012[38] prominently featured next to its official logo a link to a YouTube video in which Abu Hurayrah, an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader, praises online jihadi forums, including AMAF.

Ansar al-Mujahideen Twitter Homepage                

Abu Hurayrah stated in the video: “The enemies of the Muslims are taking the true and clear facts from jihadi forums on the Internet.”[39] The video also provides very specific instructions on installing Tor, a program designed to hide the user’s identity online.[40] In fact, the video concludes with a warning not to access the AMAF website without installing Tor.[41]

Abu Hurayrah al-Sana’i praising jihadi Internet forums;
[42] screenshot of Tor program from AMAF instructional video[43]

Screenshot from AMAF instructional video on how to access the main forum;
[44] instructions offered to users at the end of the instructional video[45]

Pakistan-Based Jihadi Organization Lashkar-e-Taiba Uses Exclusive Skype-Type Application To Plan Terror Attacks

An Indian media report in December 2012 reported on the Pakistan-based jihadi organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) using an exclusive Skype-type application developed by Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to plan terror attacks:

“The increasing use of an exclusive and underground Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) application by suspected terrorists has sent alarm bells ringing among the Indian security establishment which believes it to be a creation of the Pakistani spy agency ISI.

“The clandestine, Skype-like application being used by suspected terrorists is hosted on anonymous servers, hidden behind security walls that operate underground and cannot be intercepted through legal means. ‘The only way to intercept these conversations is to hack them, but they are highly secured due to high-grade encryption. We are finding it difficult to crack it,’ said a security official.

“The recent annual meeting of the Directors General of Police (DGPs) [in New Delhi] was told that this anonymous platform was probably developed by the ISI for communication between terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) cadres and their handlers. The access to platform is restricted to those who have been allotted a login and password, according to officials familiar with the developments.

“Terrorists often communicate over internet-based platforms, intercepting which has been part of anti-terror interventions. The 26/11 Mumbai attack [of November 26, 2008] was first major operation where the 10 member LeT attack squad effectively used VoIP to remain in touch with their handlers sitting in Karachi.

“[The Pakistan-backed terror group] Indian Mujahideen’s top operative Yasin Bhatkal, while sitting in Nepal, was using VoIP platforms to contact his associate Riyaz Bhatkal, who is in Karachi, Pakistan. The ISI developed VoIP service has been in use for more than a year. ‘There are software available to develop private and exclusive VoIP service. It is quite possible that the ISI may have tweaked the software to suit its requirements. Such kind of service is always distributed on many servers and kept anonymous. Usually security layers of VPN or virtual private network and proxy tunnels are used as an additional security,’ says Dhruv Soi, director of Torrid Networks, a cyber-security company.”[46]

Al-Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula (AQAP): Inspire Magazine And Other Publications Utilization of Encryption Technologies

Al-Qaeda’s Emerging Leader: Nasir Al-Wuhayshi – Promotes Encryption Technology

August 2013’s unprecedented terror alert and subsequent shutdown of U.S. embassies across the Middle East and Africa were triggered by intercepted communications between Al-Qaeda leader Al-Zawahiri and his newly appointed “general manager” and second-in-command, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, aka Abu Basir, about plans for a major terror attack. The terror plot, as it turned out, was not ordered by Al-Zawahiri, as first reported, but was proposed by Al-Wuhayshi and approved by Al-Zawahiri.[47]

The Yemen-born Al-Wuhayshi, leader of the Yemen-based AQAP, won his reputation as a fighter in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, and was personal secretary to, and remained close to, Osama bin Laden. After fleeing to Iran from Tora Bora in 2001, he was arrested there and deported back to Yemen, where he was imprisoned until his escape in 2006 and his reemergence to establish and head AQAP in 2009. He has significant ties to Al-Zawahiri, and was one of the first leaders to express his approval of him and pledge his loyalty to him as Al-Qaeda leader following Osama bin Laden’s killing. He has been a major target of the U.S. for years, and has been reported killed a number of times.

At 36, Al-Wuhayshi represents the next generation of the Al-Qaeda leadership; he is Internet savvy, and for the past five years has been actively bringing the philosophy of independent jihad and lone wolf attacks in the West directly to readers of Al-Qaeda’s Internet forums, as he has openly and actively helped to create and grow Al-Qaeda’s cyber army on these sites. These efforts have included providing email addresses for potential Western recruits of Al-Qaeda to contact Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and even providing encryption codes to be used for the messages.

“Make the explosives into a bomb that you can throw, set off with a timer, explode by remote, or make them into an explosives belt; or you can put them in any electronic device, like a digital recorder in which you hear the tunes of explosions, or in a photo album, a folder, or an envelope. Explode them on any taghut,[48] spy nest, Emir, minister, or Crusader, wherever you find them.

“Likewise, [you should explode them] in the airports of the Western Crusader countries that have taken part in the war against the Muslims, or in their planes, on their residential blocks, or in their subways, and so on. There is always a stratagem [to be found] if you think and rely on Allah, and have no fear of it being discovered after you have hidden it well. By the power of Allah, it cannot be discovered. Recite invocations of Allah for it…”

“For our part, we will make contact with anyone who wants to wage jihad with us, and we will guide him to a suitable means to kill the collaborators and the archons of unbelief – even in his bedroom or workplace.

“Anyone who wants to give support to [AQAP’s] operational side and to give tithes [to the organization] can contact us through a special email [set up] for this purpose, using the ‘Mujahideen Secrets’ [i.e. Asrar Al-Mujahideen] software[49] and employing the proper security measures…” The article then provides the email address through which AQAP may be contacted and an encryption key, with the advisory that only emails using ‘Mujahideen Secrets’ will be accepted.[50]

AQAP Announces Termination Of Its Online Recruitment Campaign For Security Reasons

On March 3, 2013, AQAP announced that it is discontinuing its “Convoys of Martyrs” campaign for the online recruitment of fighters and suicide bombers. The campaign, launched in June 2012, enabled applicants to contact AQAP using an encryption program and offer themselves as operatives.[51]

The termination announcement was posted on the jihadi forum on behalf of AQAP’s military command. It states that the project has been discontinued for security reasons, and instructs members already in contact with AQAP to cease their email communications with it.[52]

Issue X Of ‘Inspire,’ AQAP’s English-Language Magazine, Provides Encryption Codes For Recruits

Late on February 28, 2013, the jihadi forum Al-Fida’ released Issue X of the English-language Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) magazine Inspire.

The first page of the issue features images of all the covers of previous issues, along with the date “Spring 2013” and text reading “More Coming Soon From Inspire.” This page appears to have been intended as a preview.

As in previous issues, there is an emphasis on “lone-wolf jihad.”[53]

This issue’s table of contents, on Page 1, notes that the magazine has a new email address: “Note the change in our public key – and”

It is noteworthy that since the release of the magazine’s last issue, in May 2012, many of the AQAP leaders who have appeared in previous issues have been killed.

As in every other issue of Inspire, this issue too includes a “How To Communicate With Us” section, on page 59. The page gives the magazine’s new email address, and provides readers with Asrar Al-Mujahideen 2.0 encryption coding[54]. A newer version of this encryption software was released just weeks ago.[55]

AQAP Releases “Mujahid Pocketbook” For Lone Wolves Living In West, U.S.

On March 2, 2013, the Al-Malahem Foundation, the media wing of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAO) released an exclusive publication titled “Lone Mujahid Pocketbook.” According its cover page, the publication is “a step to step [sic] guide on how to become a successful lone mujahid.” The contents of the guide, which was published on the leading jihadi forum Al-Fida’, have been gleaned from previous issues of AQAP’s English-language magazine Inspire, the last issue of which was released two days previously.[56]

In its 64 pages, the guide provides detailed instructions on how to torch parked vehicles, cause car accidents, start forest fires, destroy buildings, and make bombs using household materials.

One section of the guide, titled “Classical Irahb [sic],” or “Classical Terror,” deals with different types of firearms, offering tips on their effective use, while its “Special Consultancy” section provides, among other things, advice to “lone mujahideen” living in the U.S. on how they can guard themselves against law enforcement authorities while conducting terror operations. Other ideas presented in this section include “guidance for those who are willing to help in the global jihad,” such as doctors, who are encouraged to create lethal poison, including anthrax, and journalists, who are encouraged to exploit their position in order to provide the mujahideen with surveillance reports. The same section also covers how a mujahid can safely communicate with other individuals by using the “Asrar Al-Mujahideen”[57] encryption program.[58]

AQAP Releases Issues VIII And IX Of Its English-Language Magazine Inspire Provides Encryption Code

On May 2, 2012, AQAP released Issues VIII (Fall 2011, 63 pp) and IX, (Winter 2012, 62 pp) of its English-language online magazine Inspire, on the main jihadi forums Shumoukh Al-Islam and Al-Fida’. These issues are dedicated to U.S.-born Al-Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki and to his protégée and fellow American jihadi Samir Khan (killed September 2011 in Yemen in a U.S. drone strike), including writings and statements by them and by others about them.

As in previous issues, Issues VIII and IX offer readers encryption codes for directly contacting the magazine.[59] They also notify readers, in several places, that the magazine has changed its public encryption code.

Inspire IX Article Provides Encryption Contact Information

The ninth issue of the English-language magazine Inspire, issued by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), includes an article titled “The Convoy of Martyrs: Rise Up and Board with Us,” which provides instructions for individuals wishing to carry out lone wolf jihad attacks. The article instructs candidates to send basic information about themselves to AQAP’s “military committee,” which will help them in planning and executing the attack, and will also take responsibility for it and provide media coverage. The article includes a list of conditions that the candidates must meet, a list of possible targets, and instructions for contacting the committee securely by using encrypted emails.

The following is the text of the article:[60]

“Ways of Contact:

“1. All forms of contact will be through [the] Asrar al-Mujahideen 2 [encryption] program. For more information, check the first issue of the magazine.

“2. Internet-related security measures should be learnt and use of disguising programs is essential.

“3. Those seeking the individual jihad will be using 2 newly-made emails, the first one will be used to send the requested information, including your Asrar key, and the second email will be attached with your sent information. Second email is used to exit out of the circle of possible infiltrated emails.

“4. Your sent message should be encrypted with the ‘convoy of martyrs’ key, using Asrar al-Mujahideen 2, and then sent using one of the emails you made to one of the following emails:




“5. You can visit the following jihadi websites, like:



“6. To contact us, here is the convoy of martyrs’ public key:

“#—Begin Al-Ekhlaas Network ASRAR El Moujahedeen V2.0 Public…”[61]

Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen, Al-Qaeda’s Somalia Affiliate Provides Encryption Codes

Before Somali Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab’s Twitter account was closed, it provided encryption codes for communication. The HSM Twitter account is also using a Yahoo Account,, to connect with media and potential new Al-Shabaab members. It should be mentioned that on January 1, 2011 Al-Shabaab published a list of the email addresses of its media wing, Al-Kataib. The statement, released on the Shumukh jihadi forum, said that the email addresses,,, and, were being provided so that anyone could convey an opinion, idea, or advice to the group. The statement also included the encryption key code[62] to be used when corresponding.[63]

Shumoukh Al-Islam, The Main Al-Qaeda Forum Provides Instructions For Accessing It Via Encrypted URL

On November 14, 2013, the Shumoukh Al-Islam forum began offering step-by-step instructions on accessing the forum via its encrypted URL, as well as on verifying the forum’s digital certificate.

The instructions were packaged under the “dissemination workshop” – a term used on jihadi forums to denote an important topic that jihadis seek to disseminate widely. Those behind the workshop provided an exhaustive list of Twitter and Facebook accounts, in addition to links to various websites, where the workshop was to be published.

Following are some of the technical details of the Shumoukh Al-Islam digital security certificate:

Common Name (CN):

Serial Number: 00: AF: FD: 4F: 52: 7D: 68: 14: 95

Issued On: 10/9/2013

Expires On: 10/9/2014

ST [state] = Singapore

Although undeclared, the workshop is probably a response to jihadis’ querying about the digital certificate warning message appearing on their browsers in the past several weeks. The warning might have appeared as a result of expiration or alteration in the Shumoukh Al-Islam forum digital certificate. The current digital certificate was issued on October 9, 2013, and is valid for a year from its issuing date.

It is worth noting that contrary to Shumoukh Al-Islam, visiting the Al-Fida’ forum, the other top-tier Al-Qaeda forum, does not prompt the user to verify its digital certificate. Al-Fida’s digital certificate, it turns out, expired on March 30, 2013. No new digital certificate is used when attempting to access Al-Fida’.[64]

Taliban English Online Magazine Azan Provides Encryption

In its fifth issue, released March 28, 2014, the Taliban’s English-language online magazine Azan provided two e-mail accounts and encryption details for contacting it.

In its fourth issue, Azan included an encryption-based software key to recruit potential jihadis from the Western countries. As in previous issues, the software key, Asrar Al-Mujahideen, Ver.2, is from the first issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine.

As in previous issues, the magazine notes: “If you would like to contribute to the magazine or to the global jihad against the crusader zionist alliance – or if you would like to carry out jihad on your home territory, contact us using the following (new) email.” The magazine gives two email IDs: and

An editorial in the magazine states: “In this issue of Azan, we speak directly to our brothers and sisters in the West and remind them of their obligation of Jihad.” A cover story written by a western jihadi and titled “To The Jihadis In The West” urges Muslim youth in America, Canada, Britain, Europe, and Australia to launch attacks in their homelands to cause economic damage and force these countries to change their foreign policies towards Islamic countries.[65]

The third issue of the magazine also included encryption-based contact details originally from Inspire magazine. A note accompanying the encryption-based public key (see the above image) states: “All communications will go through the Asrar Al-Mujahideen Ver. 2 Program. Instructions on using that [software] program can be found in the first issue of Inspire Magazine.”

It adds: “If you would like to contribute to the magazine or to the global jihad against the Crusader-Zionist alliance – or if you would like to carry out jihad on your home territory, contact us using the following emails:,”

This issue of Azan was released through the Pakistan-based Jamia Hafsa Forum and linked from various file-sharing websites, including the U.S.-based, which has emerged as the favorite platform for jihadis to disseminate their literature.

The previous two issues of Azan[66] also carried encryption-based details, calling potential jihadis to get in touch with the Taliban in order to carry out attacks.[67]

Internet Archive Library – Based In San Francisco, Used By Online Jihadis To Provide Encryption Lessons For Communicating With Al-Qaeda

Among the jihadis using the San Francisco-based Internet Archive,, is the English-language Ansarullah forum.[68] Its featured post for the week of August 8-12, 2011 was an advertisement from Inspire Magazine for readers to send questions to radical Yemeni-American Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki through encrypted messages.[69] The Ansarullah forum post included instructions for readers to send encrypted emails; this extensive document in English was posted directly on by the forum’s administrators.[70]


* Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of MEMRI; R. Sosnow is Head Editor at MEMRI.



[2] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Report No. 704, Al-Qaeda’s Embrace Of Encryption Technology: 2007-2011, July 12, 2011.

[3] MEMRI JTTM report GIMF Announces Imminent Release Of New Software, January 3, 2007.

[6] Face The Nation, January 19, 2014.

[7] Meet The Press, January 19, 2014.

[8] The New York Times, November 7, 2013.

[9] Foxnews, March 24, 2014.

[10], March 17, 2014; Huffington Post, March 18, 2014.

[11], accessed March 25, 2014.

[14] MEMRI JTTM report Online Jihadi Warns Against Using Gmail, September 1, 2013.

[15], accessed April 14, 2014.

[20] MEMRI JTTM report Jihadis Launch New Website For Secure Communication, December 4, 2013.

[23] MEMRI JTTM report Jihadis Launch New Website For Secure Communication, December 4, 2013.

[24] MEMRI JTTM report Jihadis Launch New Website For Secure Communication, December 4, 2011.

[27], accessed September 7, 2013.

[28] The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

[30] The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

[39]; active as of September 4, 2012.


[42]; active September 2, 2012.

[43]; active September 2, 2012.

[44]; active September 2, 2012.

[45]; active September 2, 2012.

[47] Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2013.

[48]taghut is an idol or false god; Salafi jihadis most often use the term as a reference to contemporary rulers of Muslim countries.

[49] “Mujahideen Secrets” is encryption software that was first released in early 2007 by the Global Islamic Media Front, and has since been updated. See MEMRI JTTM reports GIMF Announces Imminent Release of New Software, January 3, 2007 and Al-Ekhlas Announces New Version of ‘Mujahideen Secrets’ Software, January 14, 2008.

[59] For more on Al-Qaeda’s use of encryption, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 704, Al-Qaeda’s Embrace of Encryption Technology: 2007-2011, July 12, 2011, .

[60] The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

[61] MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 4689, Inspire IX Article Offers Help In Carrying Out One-Man Jihad Operations, May 3, 2012.

[62] MEMRI JTTM Report Al-Shabab Provides Emails Of Its Media Company, January 3, 2011.

[63] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 772, Somali Al-Qaeda Affiliate Al-Shabaab Tweets Jihad And Martyrdom, December 13, 2011.


[69] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 704, Al-Qaeda’s Embrace of Encryption Technology: 2007-2011, July 12, 2011.

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