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Osama’s Diabolical Plan for Secure E-Mail: Thumb Drives

Does al-Qaida really not have an IT department?

The U.S. intelligence officials poring over Osama bin Laden’s hard drives and recording devices have come to the preliminary conclusion that he managed “even tactical details” of the terror group’s business from Abbottabad. But bin Laden kept the compound off the communications grid to avoid the watchful eyes of American spy services like the National Security Agency. So how’d he deliver his instructions?

Not in a sophisticated way. He would compose a message to an operative on his personal computer, place the document on a flash drive and give it to a courier. Officials explain to the Associated Press that the courier would drive to a “distant internet cafe,” stick the drive into a cafe computer’s USB, and send off bin Laden’s message in an e-mail.

Spot the security flaws here. Who knows what nasty worms lurk in Pakistani internet cafes. If the flash drives get infected, so too could bin Laden’s computers, assuming the drives don’t get discarded after one use like burner phones.


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