A Bag of Tricks for Hiding Messages on the Internet

This week, al Qaeda circulated its first ever 100-page manual giving lessons and instructions to jihadi fighters on how to use the Internet without leaving a trace.


The writer introduces himself as a Saudi Arabian called Abu al Masana al Najdi. But al Qaeda Algerian, Moroccan and Iraqi Internet specialists contributed some sections and useful advice. It includes methods for creating Web sites immune to hostile disruption, how to post undetectable messages through the Internet or by e-mail and how to produce a video film, edit and post it. There are foolproof ways to use a password, as well as signs it has been breached and clues to the burglar.


The manual is largely devoted to techniques for hiding secret texts behind color pictures. Its pages are studded with 700 x 800 pixel graphics to illustrate the kind of pictures and the colors which lend themselves to the concealment of secret messages.


The writers claim that the entire Koran can be hidden behind one of these pictures without any infidel catching on.


Also offered are lessons in how to blur colors in pictures of, say, fruit (see picture), or children’s toys, plant printed texts behind them and restore the colors.


The manual is al Qaeda’s response to the complaint by many of its adherents around the world who are afraid to use Internet for fear of betraying their whereabouts to American or other Western intelligence agencies watching their e-mail or Web sites. The writer reassures his audience that, by following the instructions in the manual, they can browse and make use of the Web at no risk


Al Najdi even offers them code words to replace such telltale terms as RPG (rocket-propelled-grenade) IED (improvised explosive device, or roadside bomb), that might trigger keyword searchers. He also tells them how to use a file shredder.


DEBKA-Net-Weeklys Al Qaeda monitors discovered the new al Qaeda manual on one of its Web sites. It is distributed from the Saudi town of Dammam. That al Qaeda is able to use a Saudi town to produce a high-quality volume indicates that some circles of the local hi-tech community are amenable to cooperating with the terrorist organization.

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