A Website frequented by al Qaeda supporters has released an upgrade to an encryption software tool for Islamic militants to communicate more privately and securely over the Internet -- with a stronger form of encryption, according to a Reuters report.
Even more disturbing is that the site hosting the application appears to be located in the U.S., in Tampa, Fla., says Paul Henry, vice president of technology evangelism for Secure Computing. Henry says a "whois" lookup shows that the site is hosted by NOC4HostsInc., in Tampa, and he has informed law enforcement of his finding.
"The Tampa connection is interesting, and has been brought to law enforcement's attention, along with a few other interesting sites hosted at the same location. It is appalling that a U.S. hosting firm is renting space for the site," Henry told Dark Reading.
The so-called Mujahadeen Secrets 2 software is available for free on the password-protected Ekhlaas.org site that regularly posts al Qaeda messages. The site says the application is "the first Islamic program for secure communications through networks with the highest technical level of encoding."
The original version of Mujahadeen Secrets was released last year by The Global Islamic Media Front, a Web-based group linked to al Qaeda.
Henry says he hasn't had a chance to test out the new application to determine just what type of encryption it's using. "But I understand that among other things, it solves a weak key issue they had, making it more difficult to crack," he says.
Terror experts have been concerned for some time over al Qaeda's increasing presence and use of the Internet to spread its message and to recruit new members. First there was the emergence of Web-based "electronic jihad" software last year, and then the Internet community went on high alert in November after an Israeli news organization reported that al Qaeda was planning a large-scale cyberattack, but that never materialized. (See 'Electronic Jihad' App Offers Cyberterrorism for the Masses and Report: Al Qaeda Schedules Cyber Jihad for Nov. 11.)
Secure Computing's Henry notes that the new version of Mujahadeen Secrets could make things more difficult for law enforcement to track terrorist activity. "With this upgrade, one has to wonder how long it will be before other software such as 'eJihad' [Electronic Jihad] is updated to use current technology and [it] becomes a more menacing threat," he says.
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading