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Hackers turn bomb plans to recipe

Sat., June 4, 2011

LONDON – Britain’s spy agencies have a new message for terrorists: make cupcakes, not war.

Intelligence agents managed to hack into the extremist Inspire magazine, replacing its bomb-making instructions with a recipe for cupcakes.

It’s the first time the agents sabotaged the English-language magazine linked to U.S.-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an extremist accused in several recent terror plots.

The quarterly online magazine, which is sent to websites and email addresses as a pdf file, had offered an original page titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” in one of its editions last year. The magazine’s pages were corrupted, however, and the instructions replaced with the cupcake recipe.

The hackers were reportedly working for Britain’s eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, which has boosted its resources in the past several years.

Choosing to hack into al-Qaida-affiliated websites or other systems is risky business for intelligence agencies. Infiltrating a site can often expose sources and methods, a British official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss cybersecurity matters. He would not specify how Inspire was hacked.

Al-Awlaki, thought to be hiding in Yemen, is believed to have inspired or helped coordinate recent attacks on the U.S.

Al-Awlaki is a regular contributor to Inspire, offering advice on everything from spiritual questions to recruiting.

“A recipe for cupcakes is better than a recipe for bombs, but it would been more productive if they had put up counter-arguments to al-Qaida,” said James Brandon with the London-based Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist organization. “They could have also attacked Awlaki himself. It should be about discrediting these individuals.”


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