LONDON (Reuters) - Spies hacked into an al Qaeda website to replace instructions on how to build a bomb with recipes for making cupcakes, newspapers reported on Friday.
The cyber offensive took place last year when the English language magazine called Inspire, aimed at Muslims in the West, was launched by supporters of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
British intelligence officers based at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the state eavesdropping service, attacked the 67-page magazine, leaving most of it garbled, British newspapers said.
Instead of being able to read how to “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” readers were greeted with computer code which actually contained recipes from The Best Cupcakes in America, published by U.S. chat show host Ellen DeGeneres.
The Washington Post reported that the British action followed a dispute between the CIA and the newly formed U.S. Cyber Command.
The cyber unit had wanted to block the al Qaeda magazine but the CIA, which had countered such an attack would expose sources and intelligence methods, won the debate and declined to allow an attack on Inspire.
The paper reported that it took almost two weeks for AQAP to post a corrected version of the magazine after it had been sabotaged.
A security source said the Post’s report was accurate but could not confirm details of the reported cupcake operation.
Last year, the new National Security Strategy placed cyber attacks as one of the top threats to the country, and ministers have repeatedly spoken out about the danger posed by extremist Islamist websites.
Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison