By Tom Foreman, CNN
Despite some claims that terrorist networks are on the run worldwide, several examples of terrorist activity in recent years show extremists are still finding a way to secretly plan attacks.
When al-Qaeda leaders in far-flung corners of the earth need to talk with each other, they don't pick up the phone. Security analysts say they jump onto the internet, using a complicated chain of computer connections.
Although no one knows for sure, this is how they believe it works: the parties meet in a private internet chat room where they are extremely cautious: using aliases to shroud their identities, and encryption software making it difficult to read what anyone is saying in one of these short meetings.
Beyond that, they may even send proxies, deputies in a sense, to conduct the actual talks so that the commanders are seldom directly connected to each other, or to whatever is being orchestrated.
But it goes even further: instructions from top al-Qaeda operatives are believed to sometimes be sent by trusted couriers to internet cafes, where they log onto public computers, they encrypt the message as they type it and then they send it through an e-mail account set up specifically just for that one message and no other.
Minutes later, the whole trail disappears.
Some security analysts say this combination of technology, social media sites, and internet anonymity is the backbone of terrorist communications. And Laith Alkhouri with Flashpoint Global Partners says it works remarkably well.
"I think they allow such groups to flourish, and they certainly give the means for possible lone wolves to communicate with actual groups or offer themselves as potential terrorists," said Alkhouri.
Need proof? Prosecutors say the men accused of the Boston bombings used Jihadi websites for inspiration and bomb building advice.
Security analysts say Anwar al-Awlaki exchanged e-mails with the accused fort hood shooter, Nidal Hassan.
And Khalid Sheik Mohammad is believed to have used a hotmail account.
"Al -Qaeda started with one website a decade ago. And now today, we have at least a dozen al-Qaeda web forums that host thousands of individuals," said Alkhouri.
A few years back, when the hunt bin laden was still raging, some intelligence forces believed al-Qaeda was even developing its own intranet that was electronically hidden behind some Jihadi websites and accessible only to a few people.
Whether they succeeded or such a system still exists, like much of their communication structure, remains shrouded in mystery.