NEWS FROM THE LAB - Thursday, June 2, 2011

British Intelligence Vandalizing Extremist Online Magazines Posted by Mikko @ 12:34 GMT

An article in the Washington Post reports that members of British intelligence vandalized an issue of the Inspire magazine. Inspire is the English-language lifestyle magazine of Al-Qaeda, published online in PDF format. They have published five issues so far.

When the first issue was published last year, most jihadists ended up downloading a corrupted version instead of the real deal. The corrupted version was manufactured and spread by British intelligence.

Here's what the corruption looked like.

Below, the cover of Inspire #1. On left, the real version, on right, the corrupted version. There's no visible difference.

Inspire magazine

Table of contents. No visible difference.

Inspire magazine

Page 4. Suddenly, the contents of the doctored version turn into binary garbage:

Inspire magazine

This continues throughout the magazine. Here's page 41:

Inspire magazine

The binary garbage that replaced the extremist content seems to be random bytes. In reality it's a raw dump of a file with cupcake recipes, pasted to overwrite the original content.

Inspire magazine

When we analyzed the corrupted version, we thought it would be plausible that it would contain malware or exploits. However, it did not.

We will not be providing download links for the actual magazine.