Will al Qaeda respond to the death of Osama bin Laden with serious cyberattacks? The short answer is no. Despite an active interest in cyberattacks, al Qaeda has not managed any successful assaults other than some posting of propaganda, ATM milking and credit-card fraud. This is mainly because its key computer experts have been captured or killed. Here we reconstruct the group’s efforts to tamper with Western technology:
July 1999: The first cyberconflict between Hamas and Israel inspires al Qaeda’s leaders, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
June 2002: American officials warn that hackers associated with al Qaeda have been accessing hacker tools and probing emergency phone systems, nuclear power facilities, water systems and gas pipelines.
November 2002: Imam Samudra, an advocate of cyberattacks who organized the Bali nightclub bombing, is arrested in Indonesia (and eventually executed).
March 2003: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is captured in Pakistan. He is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
April 2004: Younis Tsouli begins hacking into Web sites to post al Qaeda propaganda. He later distributes a written “Seminar on Hacking Websites” and goes on to perpetrate the most successful al Qaeda–linked cyberattacks to date.
October 2005: Tsouli is arrested in London.
August 2008: One of the last al Qaeda leaders expert in computers, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, is reported at large in Kenya, but all al Qaeda efforts to mount cyberattacks have died down.
May 2011: U.S. forces find and kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottobad, Pakistan.
Editor's note: This story was printed with the title, "Al Qaeda and the Internet."