7/25 OT

MI6 Hacks Al-Qaeda and Gives Them Cupcake Recipes

Alex Knapp, Forbes Staff

The Telegraph reports that MI6 successfully hacked into computers distributing the latest version of al-Qaeda’s magazine. The result? Instead of getting recipes for bombs, lucky terrorists subscribing to the publication instead received delicious cupcake recipes.

The cyber-warfare operation was launched by MI6 and GCHQ in an attempt to disrupt efforts by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular to recruit “lone-wolf” terrorists with a new English-language magazine, the Daily Telegraph understands.

When followers tried to download the 67-page colour magazine, instead of instructions about how to “Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom” by “The AQ Chef” they were greeted with garbled computer code.

The code, which had been inserted into the original magazine by the British intelligence hackers, was actually a web page of recipes for “The Best Cupcakes in America” published by the Ellen DeGeneres chat show.

Written by Dulcy Israel and produced by Main Street Cupcakes in Hudson, Ohio, it said “the little cupcake is big again” adding: “Self-contained and satisfying, it summons memories of childhood even as it’s updated for today’s sweet-toothed hipsters.”

It included a recipe for the Mojito Cupcake – “made of white rum cake and draped in vanilla buttercream”- and the Rocky Road Cupcake – “warning: sugar rush ahead!”

This is a pretty amusing story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though the results were long-lasting. According to the Telegraph, the magazine’s producers were able to put out the correct edition – with bomb instructions included – a few days later.

This sounds like a cute propaganda coup at first, but I’m in agreement with BoingBoing commenter Symbiote, who noted

Why not replace the bomb recipes with harmless things that look like they could be bombs, but have no chance of working? Or perhaps require large quantities of strange ingredients, to help trace where the people using the recipe are.

This is absolutely right. There was a golden opportunity here to make subtle changes that may have gone unnoticed by the magazine’s producers, but would have made it easier to catch terrorists. Now that al-Qaeda knows it can be hacked, this type of gambit probably wouldn’t work again. They’re on their guard now. And that’s too bad.

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