Information Warfare: The Islamic Computer Worm


September 14, 2006: While there have been no serious incidents of Islamic terrorists doing damage via the Internet, that doesn't mean that there are not Arabs who could carry out such attacks. Case in point is the recent prosecution of two Morocco programmers Farid Essebar and Achraf Bahloul, for creating and releasing the Zotob worm a year ago. The two men were part of a credit card fraud gang, and were financed by a Turk, Atilla Ekici. They were young, inexperienced, and got caught. But their worm worked, and infected over 250,000 PCs running Windows 2000. The lads were quick to take advantage of a recently discovered (and patched by Microsoft) bug in the Windows 2000 operating system.
So far nearly all Arabs, and Moslems in general, with programming skills, are either working legitimate jobs or, like these two, engaged in computer fraud. Actually, the first computer virus, the Brain virus, was created by a Moslem programmer, a Pakistani fellow who was trying to punish those who were making illegal copies of the legitimate business software he had created. But the Brain virus got out of control, and spread all over the world.
So it's not the case that there aren't enough Moslems to provide Islamic terrorists with programming skills, and the capability to threaten the Internet with major terrorist attacks. It's just that none of the Moslem programmers choose to go that way, so far. While there are a lot of Moslems who support Islamic terrorism, there are far fewer who are willing to actually get involved in such terrorism. A greater danger are the gangs, mostly non-Moslem, that specialize in Internet crime, and may be willing, for a very large fee, to provide the technical know-how, to carry out a terrorist attack over the Internet. For most people, money if a far greater motivator than ideology.
Essebar and Bahloul were convicted of fraud, and were sentenced to two years and one year in jail, respectively. Other computer criminals have recently received sentences of as long as seven years, but that was widely condemned by others in the computer field as disproportionate.


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