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Sexy Tanja
April 30, 2012 11:51 PM   Subscribe

Remember all that porn found on Osama bin Laden's computer? It may not be all porn.
posted by vidur (71 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
They hate us because of our international transportation.
posted by ryanrs at 11:56 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I came, I conquered.
posted by phaedon at 11:56 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is a "terrorist training manual," anyway? I'm seriously asking.
posted by sklero at 12:03 AM on May 1, 2012


I saw, I conquered, I came.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is a "terrorist training manual," anyway? I'm seriously asking.
You ever read an employee handbook? I imagine it is much the same. Honestly, not making laugh here. In the end, there is little difference in organizational systems and management technique. Mostly, varying systems just use different terminology. While terrorists might use 'agent' and 'cell,' your local Domino's Pizza might use the phrase 'employee' and 'location.' Their decision structures might be a little different, but I doubt it. It is depressing if you think about it too much. What works, works.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:09 AM on May 1, 2012


They hate us for our Tube porn. Seriously, they hold us in contempt for overlooking such an easy an ubiquitous way to encrypt our data.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:09 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


TERROR PLANZ:
1) SIEZE A SHIP OR SOMETHING
2) ???
3) CALIFATE!!!
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:11 AM on May 1, 2012 [20 favorites]


sklero: What is a "terrorist training manual," anyway? I'm seriously asking.

They tend to be treatises on guerilla warfare infused with political ideology, pretty much in the vein of Carlos Marighella's classic. Certainly the IRA's handbook was very similar, and the structure and content of the al-Qaeda manuals I've seen have obviously had a lot less leftist framing of everything, but are also basically similar (with differences largely being down to technological developments in warfare, surveillance, and security).
posted by Dysk at 12:11 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you don't watch examine porn, the terrorists win.
posted by vidur at 12:17 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The inverse of the old "hiding pornography inside terrorist training manual," very clever.
posted by iamck at 12:33 AM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]


Since porn is a huge percentage of internet traffic, I wonder how much resources the intelligence services are putting into examining porn? Billions?
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:45 AM on May 1, 2012


I've never been convinced that Al Qaida really has ever existed, as a self-identifying name. In fact, I've read a few articles arguing pretty well that it's a name made up by US operatives. Sure there are some people organised to do bad things, but whenever I read about Al Qaida plans, or the Al Qaida core group I'm always ... somewhat dubious.
posted by iotic at 12:55 AM on May 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Cite
posted by iotic at 1:01 AM on May 1, 2012


All your breasts are belong to us?
posted by Muddler at 1:02 AM on May 1, 2012


This is either a cunning Al Qaeda plot, or a rather clever excuse cooked up by a German intelligence analyst to explain why he has spent the last year and a half watching porn at work...
posted by Skeptic at 1:07 AM on May 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


iotic, I refer you to an interview OBL gave in October 2001, where he says:
The name "al Qaeda" was established a long time ago by mere chance. The late Abu Ebeida El-Banashiri established the training camps for our mujahedeen against Russia's terrorism. We used to call the training camp al Qaeda [meaning "the base" in English]. And the name stayed.
transcript of interview
I'm thinking he is pretty much an authority on the origins of the name.
posted by Lame_username at 1:09 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, you have to wonder why he never referred to it as such before 9/11, although the US had been doing so since 98.

In any case, what is really dubious is when the media say someone with apparently anti-western beliefs and intentions has or had "links to Al Qaeda". It rarely seems like there's any basis for saying that they belong/ed to one and the same organisation as Bin Laden, or anyone else.
posted by iotic at 1:41 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


We used to call the training camp al Qaeda [meaning "the base" in English]. And the name stayed.

Whoa. All your base are belong to us meme images start spreading, and guess what happens later in the year?

9/11.
posted by floam at 1:54 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hijacking a cruise ship has been done before. Some innocent people died, but overall it seems like a huge waste of resources. You can't really slam them into anything, and those sucker are huge -- much more difficult to take over than a teeny little cockpit pre-9/11, when they were basically unsecured.
posted by bardic at 1:55 AM on May 1, 2012


You can't really slam them into anything

Sandra Bullock would beg to differ.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


We are quite capable of inducing terror in passengers by running ocean liners into rocks or having them drift around without power on our own, but thanks for the offer!
posted by asok at 2:04 AM on May 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is either a cunning Al Qaeda plot, or a rather clever excuse cooked up by a German intelligence analyst to explain why he has spent the last year and a half watching porn at work...

Or a clever way for Al Qaeda operatives to explain to other operatives why they have such a big porn collection. "No, reallly. It's for jihad!"
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:12 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, Lashkar-e-Toiba has rolled out its own VOIP solution that Indian spooks are finding hard to crack.

Remember, virtually the entire case against LeT for the Mumbai attacks comes from either the captured terrorist, Kasab, or recordings of VOIP calls made by the controllers in Lahore to these folks on the ground in Mumbai.

A lot of policy thinking in these parts goes along the lines of *when* there's cyber warfare and on attacks on "cyber infrastructure". The reality now seems to be that the fight against these groups _already_ includes components of cyberwarfare, and not merely in terms of information security, but also operational or tactical information.
posted by the cydonian at 2:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hijacking a cruise ship has been done before. Some innocent people died, but overall it seems like a huge waste of resources. You can't really slam them into anything, and those sucker are huge -- much more difficult to take over than a teeny little cockpit pre-9/11, when they were basically unsecured.

Hijacking it is fairly pointless; the people you are ramming it at generally have several minutes to a few hours to move out of the way. Even blowing it up below the waterline is likely to result in many lifeboats being boarded and not so many casualties. They are really quite survivable objects, even setting aside the fact that Marines are likely to just land on the deck at some point during a hijack because one can do that with vessels.
posted by jaduncan at 2:19 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


And eh, the killings on board the boat plan? There's not much advantage over just holding a random group of people somewhere else, plus the fact that the large ships are really almost guaranteed to have ex-Naval people with guns on staff.

I had to do a terrorist impact game, and my suggestion was simple: just let off simultaneous shaped charges on the Tube at the points where it goes under the Thames. At the point where it fills up with water rapidly and the fuse breakers start to go off London Transport would have to choose between stopping the trains in a flooding tunnel or keeping them moving at the cost of electrocuting everyone. Add billions of pounds of economic damage to that, and consider that would have been the professional sapper version of what was done in the London Tube bombings. This plan is obviously repeatable for other under-river metro systems, and defending against it involves huge costs because it's millions of commuter journeys a week that are time critical, unlike air transport. Stage two is then to blow up/shoot the waiting crowds (maybe at bus stops, since the Tube/metro/subway isn't working).

Frankly the world is lucky that terrorism is often so ridiculously poorly planned.
posted by jaduncan at 2:34 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fucking Hell Jaduncan, am I glad you are not a terrorist.
posted by marienbad at 2:37 AM on May 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


One more thing: the other thing I've heard from friends in these think-tank/ policy circles is that careers in Al Qaeda research or expertise is virtually dead now. In fact, my friend was comparing it with the sudden death of careers for all those Sovietologists when the Berlin Wall fell; seems like its a combination of two or more events, first there appears to be a genuine takedown of Al Qaeda's capabilities, because of both events leading to, and culminating in, the killing of bin Laden, and second, the fact that funding for Al Qaeda research have simply dried up under the Obama administration. Now the big money is in research on Arab Spring; on socio-ethnic mixes in Bahrain, Syria, Libya and so on.
posted by the cydonian at 2:44 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Steganography-Pornography
posted by fightoplankton at 2:57 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


jaduncan: the thames tunnel is way under the Thames (23m of rock)...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thames_Tunnel

if governments have decided that terrorist attacks are fundamentally pretty easy and thusly have instead placed alot more emphasis on a Thought Police inspired prevention; we then really undermine our own security when we as terrorist non-sympathizers share our ideas about what would be effective terrorist targets in large public forums like Metafilter.
posted by dongolier at 3:02 AM on May 1, 2012


if governments have decided that terrorist attacks are fundamentally pretty easy and thusly have instead placed alot more emphasis on a Thought Police inspired prevention; we then really undermine our own security when we as terrorist non-sympathizers share our ideas about what would be effective terrorist targets in large public forums like Metafilter.

a) This is security by obscurity; it's a terrible idea as it rather assumes only the good guys have brains (and, incidentally, would require you to dislike almost all modern security methodology).

b) The Thames Tunnel isn't even a Tube tunnel so that wouldn't be very relevant, and as the first underwater tunnel it was very over engineered. Some of the others are not quite the same.

c) On a brief Google, a similar plan was briefly discussed in the Evening Standard in 2004 after a press discussion of it by MI6. I don't think these things are supar secret.
posted by jaduncan at 3:31 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Thames Tunnel is not the Tube. Very, very different.
posted by cromagnon at 3:34 AM on May 1, 2012


Actually if you're aiming to paralyse London's transport system I'm not sure you even need shaped charges. Throwing some leaves on the line seems to do it.
posted by Segundus at 3:47 AM on May 1, 2012 [24 favorites]


I swear that the mirror opposite situation was the plot twist in an episode of Law and Order: SVU. It was the porn that was hidden, inside a really mundane document; there are ways to hide vast amounts of data encrypted in, like, a pixel or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:54 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Transport for London foxes terrorists' plans by coming pre-paralysed.
posted by Grangousier at 3:56 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I liked it when Al Qaida was named after the Arabic translation of Asimov's Foundation series.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


marienbad: "Fucking Hell Jaduncan, am I glad you are not a terrorist."

I got that beat, but I don't want this thread to turn into a laundry list of bad ideas.

Suffice it to say, the people who's job it is to think about these things come up with these kinds of scenarios all the time. Controversially, they sometimes even get help from science fiction writers such as Bear, Niven, and Pournelle. Hell, Brunner came up with some really sick ones, but thankfully things like mono-molecular wire aren't a reality yet.

I wish there were more details about how they detected the steganography and broke the encryption.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:25 AM on May 1, 2012


Wake me when they find the terrorist style manual.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 4:41 AM on May 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wake me when they find the terrorist style manual.

"This year long beards are again the new black. Do not listen to the kāfir who say we look like tall dwarves! Also Jimmy Choos are so 90s Sex and the City and are right out."
posted by jaduncan at 4:55 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speaking of the AQ style manial, I hear the AQ proofreaders are hard core. Don't use Zionist when you meant Jews and Crusaders or the red pen will be the least of your worries.
posted by humanfont at 5:00 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


What is a "terrorist training manual," anyway? I'm seriously asking.

It's been [ 0 ] days since an accident.
posted by odinsdream at 5:12 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


humanfont: "Speaking of the AQ style manial, I hear the AQ proofreaders are hard core. Don't use Zionist when you meant Jews and Crusaders or the red pen will be the least of your worries."

Damn straight.
posted by theredpen at 5:16 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's a smart way to avoid detection, this---they figure that anyone looking will just go "LOL porn" and not look any closer.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:25 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


links to Al Qaeda = saw 9/11 on tv.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:11 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


While terrorists might use 'agent' and 'cell,' your local Domino's Pizza might use the phrase 'employee' and 'location.' Their decision structures might be a little different, but I doubt it. It is depressing if you think about it too much. What works, works.

Yeah, I'm gonna need you to come in on the day of rest. We...lost some people this week and we sorta need to play catch-up. Mmmmmkay? Thaaaaaanks.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:30 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Instructor: Maqsood! What are you watching?!
Maqsood: Uhhh....nothing...er...I am watching, Back Door Slammers 4, Instructor!
Instructor: What??? I cannot believe...wait, what?
Maqsood: *poker face*
posted by Xoebe at 6:37 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish there were more details about how they detected the steganography and broke the encryption.

I would hope answer to the first part is they assumed it was there. I was a bit disappointed by the guffawing about finding a bunch of porn on OBL's computer. It seemed like pointless end zone celebrating if true. I figured it didn't exist or had spun out of a joke someone made. If there was a treasure trove of hard-core porn on that guy's computer, I'd like to believe our intelligence services, how ever busted they may be, immediately thought, "Stenography".
posted by yerfatma at 6:37 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's because it's early but I'm helplessly giggling imagining the Al Qaeda Employee Handbook. "All employees must be bearded at all times. A beard will be provided for you and the cost deducted from your first paycheck."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:51 AM on May 1, 2012


Al Qaeda's style guide probably prefers the Oxford comma, and email, no hyphen.
posted by emelenjr at 6:54 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will make it my personal mission to search every porn site for clues to Al Qaeda.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:58 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


If there was a treasure trove of hard-core porn on that guy's computer, I'd like to believe our intelligence services, how ever busted they may be, immediately thought, "Stenography".

Stenography? I suspect you mean Steganography...

(Sorry, pet peeve!)
posted by Dysk at 6:59 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I would hope that the first response to "lots of extraneous material on a secret person's computer", *particularly* jpgs, would be "oooh! steganographic content! let's see what's in here."
posted by rmd1023 at 7:06 AM on May 1, 2012


Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure gave a presentation at the RSA conference this year about how extremists are using the internet. In it, he talked about their use of steganography to hide files. There are magazines like "Technical Mujahid" that teaches these kind of techniques. That article is from 2007, by the way, so it's not like it's really new information - I'm sure they found it in this case because they were looking for it.
posted by gemmy at 7:06 AM on May 1, 2012


I wish there were more details about how they detected the steganography and broke the encryption.

Yeah, me too. It was pretty obvious from the location of the memory card that it contained important data, but proper steganographic methods wouldn't be detectable, and would require a password to extract. Though the latter might have been gotten through interrogation, but that doesn't explain why it took them several weeks to crack through the concealment.
posted by ymgve at 7:14 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dysk, I'm sure there's plenty of stenographer porn out there too.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


This article is the first time I can recall stegonoographically protected data actually existing. There's been scare talk for years about terrorist documents hiding in pornography, but nothing in the way of actual evidence. Well, here it is.

If you want to read a terrorist training manual in English, try Norwegian murderer Breivik's manifesto 2083 - A European Declaration of Independence. It's awfully long, but it's quite coherent and awful. A lot of it is political posturing but about 3/4 of the way through he gets into details on weapons, training, etc. It was fascinating for me to read a jihadist manual where the jihadi happens to identify himself with Catholic mythology instead of Islamic.
posted by Nelson at 7:38 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


yerfatma: "I would hope answer to the first part is they assumed it was there. … If there was a treasure trove of hard-core porn on that guy's computer, I'd like to believe our intelligence services, how ever busted they may be, immediately thought, "Stenography"." [sic]

Yes, of course. There's myriad ways to use the technique though. Hell a quick search will get you a list of dozens of steganographic tools. No doubt using one of those might make it easier on the cryptanalyst. Sophisticated implementations should prove almost impenetrable.

Then again, no technique, no matter its level of sophistication or manner of implementation, can survive a sticky-note on the keyboard.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:51 AM on May 1, 2012


we then really undermine our own security when we as terrorist non-sympathizers share our ideas about what would be effective terrorist targets in large public forums like Metafilter.

The world is a target rich enviroment and the bad guys have lots of time to devote to brainstorming. Our discussing attack vectors isn't going to aid terrorism.

b) The Thames Tunnel isn't even a Tube tunnel so that wouldn't be very relevant, and as the first underwater tunnel it was very over engineered. Some of the others are not quite the same.

Heck some transport tunnels aren't even tunnels per se rather they are steel tubes laying on the surface in a trench of the underwater ground.
posted by Mitheral at 7:58 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do I get the feeling this was cracked by way of rubber hose cryptanalysis?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:03 AM on May 1, 2012


Stenography? I suspect you mean Steganography...

In my defense, I meant the study of dinosaurs.
posted by yerfatma at 8:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


The NSW police favourite way to flip a suspect is to say 'hmmm some of those nudie girls on your seized hdd look awfully young. How would it be if we released a report saying you were possibly going to be charged with kiddie porn offences? Perhaps there is some information you want to share now to make that charge 'unnecessary'.
My observations suggest it even goes further, with charges being laid that are later dropped.
posted by bystander at 8:20 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That sounds like abuse of powers. Not the actual interrogation, but the "pressing charges for no reason at all except intimidation" part souds VERY sketchy.
posted by ymgve at 11:11 AM on May 1, 2012


Dysk, I'm sure there's plenty of stenographer porn out there too.

Oh, you want me to take a memo, sir?
posted by msalt at 12:28 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dysk, I'm sure there's plenty of stenographer porn out there too.

Oh, you want me to take a memo, sir?


Oh, I can do shorthand and longhand quite well, if you know what I mean.
posted by vidur at 12:40 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


U.S. Has No Idea Whether al-Qaida Is Beat
posted by homunculus at 1:03 PM on May 1, 2012


Since bin Laden’s death: The War on Terror and its various civil liberties assaults have escalated, not been reversed or even slowed down
posted by homunculus at 1:09 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quick question: can anyone who knows anything about encryption explain this to me? I was under the impression that encryption these days is really good, and that just about anyone can create a .rar file or something of the sort which would take thousands of years to crack. Not true?
posted by Buckt at 1:37 PM on May 1, 2012


Buckt: firstly, it might not have actually been encrypted, just "hidden" inside the other files. And even if it was encrypted, it's really hard to do encryption properly - they might have kept a copy of the original text, or encrypted a known text (e.g., something widely available). Depending on the technique they used, this would make breaking the other encryption either easier or absolutely trivial. Or someone might have actually given the password to the authorities, and all the stories about it taking weeks to break the encryption are misdirection.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:06 PM on May 1, 2012


Frankly the world is lucky that terrorism is often so ridiculously poorly planned.

Quoted for truth, jaduncan.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:39 PM on May 1, 2012


Or they may have chosen poor passwords. While a completely nonsensical and truly random pass phrase used with a good encryption program (IE: one without weaknesses) is nigh on uncrackable most people don't choose good pass phrases. If an extended dictionary attack can reveal your password it doesn't matter how good the encryption scheme is.

And of course there is always the possibility the NSA knows of weaknesses in any particular encryption scheme that the public doesn't. See for example the the NSA's suggestions for strengthening DES S-Boxes against a weakness that the general public didn't know about for a 15 years.

Finally as [expletive deleted] wrote, there is always the rubber hose.
posted by Mitheral at 5:38 PM on May 1, 2012


I expect poor passwords or other poor operational security is to blame. Even without knowledge of unpublished weaknesses in the crypto algorithms, the NSA has more than a few resources to dedicate to dictionary attacks and rainbow table generation.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:49 AM on May 3, 2012


Interesting, thanks!
posted by Buckt at 9:27 PM on May 20, 2012


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