Al-Qaeda’s main Internet sites have gone silent for more than a week in an unprecedented outage for the extremist network’s online forums, analysts said Tuesday.
The outage hit a number of online forums including two “flagship” sites, al-Fida and Shamukh al-Islam, which serve as a channel for Al-Qaeda forums, providing a stamp of approval for any associated sites, Zelin said.
One of the two main sites, Shamukh al-Islam, reappeared online on Monday but had not yet resumed message threads, he said.
A “second-tier” site, Ansar al-Mujahideen Arabic Forum, was restored within three days, he said.
No one has claimed credit for the blackout, which bore all the signs of a cyber attack, analysts said, as the forums usually post messages announcing a temporary interruption if they close the sites themselves.
The digital sabotage could have been carried out by any number of governments or private hackers, said James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The long silence from the sites suggested Al-Qaeda was having difficulty getting service restored and was no longer as capable in the cyber realm.
The last time Al-Qaeda’s sites faced a major outage was in June 2010, when British intelligence sought to block the release of an online magazine from Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, according to Zelin.
Western officials have often debated the best approach to Al-Qaeda’s online presence.
Although the group’s forums are used to encourage terror attacks and spread extremism, the sites also provide a way for intelligence services to monitor the network’s militants.