Hacker War Rages in Holy Land
Israelis and Palestinians are waging a cyberspace hacking war, employing a variety of tactics such as site defacements, system penetrations, misinformation campaigns and the possible use of viruses or Trojan horses.
That’s the word according to iDefense, an international private intelligence outfit monitoring hacker activities for private and public-sector clients. Not only has the rash of defacements already crashed official government and corporate sites, but it is expected to continue and intensify as political tensions in the region heighten.
Since Oct. 6, when the Israeli/Palestinian cyberconflict moved into full swing, pro-Palestinian hackers have defaced at least 40 Israeli sites while Israeli antagonists have marred 15 Palestinian sites.
iDefense Chairman and CEO James Adams believes the current rash of attacks between the Palestinians and Israelis is "just a taste of things to come."
"We expect to see more wars like this one being waged out there," said Adams, who foresees the future of warfare as one conducted not only by nations with armies, but by individuals with common gripes, banning together against a common enemy.
"Their weapon of choice, the laptop, is easily available, and the ammunition, viruses and hacking programs, is free on the Internet," he said.
The current conflict is believed to have begun shortly after pro-Israeli attackers created a website called Wizel.com -- a host for FloodNet attack, which reloads a targeted Web page several times per minute, thereby rendering the site inoperable.
Six different Hezbollah sites, including Hamas.org and other Palestinian informational sites, were victims of the FloodNet device.
Pro-Palestinian attackers quickly rallied from the assault and attacked Wizel.com and a wide range of Israeli sites, including the Bank of Israel and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Back and forth, the Israelis and Palestinians launch attack after attack, often rewriting the same hacking programs to destroy their creator’s site.
Analysis by iDefense reveals a number of key players and organizations involved in the war. On the Israeli side, the wizel.com creators, a.israforce.com, SmallMistake and Hizballa are just a few of the individuals or groups waging battles against Palestinians.
On the other front, Unity, a Muslim extremist group with ties to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, has been one of the forerunners in what pro-Palestinian hackers commonly refer to in chat rooms and bulletin boards as "e-jihad" or "cyber-jihad."
Credited with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange hit, Unity has announced that it has begun phase three of its four-part cyberwar. Phase one of their cyber jihad focused on crashing official Israeli government sites. Phase two included the Bank of Israel hit, while Phase three targets the Israeli ISP infrastructure and the site for Lucent, as well as that of Golden Lines, an Israeli telecommunications provider.
For their part, Unity has said it will hold off on the fourth and final phase of its plan, namely the destruction of Israeli e-commerce sites.
"We warn the Zionists and their supporters that any attempt to touch any Anti-Zionist site will be faced with phase four of the cyberwar -- [causing] millions of dollars of losses in transactions," wrote a Unity spokesperson.
The group was particularly infuriated when Hezbollah officials claimed an Israeli attack began after the site (www.hezbollah.org) started showing recent video clips of Israeli ground attacks on Palestinians in Gaza. Hezbollah has since increased its server capacity to help ward off further attacks.
Though pro-Israeli hackers have successfully defaced several important Palestinian sites, including that of the Palestinian National Authority, iDefense director of intelligence production Ben Venzke believes the Palestinians are winning the war in cyberspace.
Based on the number of sites defaced and the legions of people joining in the effort, pro-Palestinian hackers are rallying additional support for their effort every day.
"There are people on the Palestinian side trying to learn how to hack overnight to join the effort," said Venzke. Everyone from "script-kiddies" to professional hackers has joined Unity and other hacker groups in their effort to destroy Israeli interests.
One entity Venzke has taken particular interest in is the pro-Palestinian hacker who goes by the name dodi. A skilled hacker, dodi has been responsible for some of the most destructive attacks in this war.
On November 3, Cognifit.co.il, a service provider for elderly Israeli citizens, was defaced by dodi. On the site, the hacker claimed he could shut down the Israeli ISP NetVision, which claims it hosts almost 70 percent of all the country’s Internet traffic.
"A shutdown of NetVision would be tantamount to knocking Israel off the Net for a significant period of time," said Venzke. Along with the threat, dodi included a warning for U.S. interests on the Net.
"I would also like to add that this isn’t just a war against Israel, for the perpetrators of the atrocities in Palestine are U.S.-backed," said dodi. "It’s America which has blood on its hands, the blood of innocent women and children."
High-profile websites such as Yahoo! and CNN.com, which have been victims of cyberattacks in the past, are thought to be potential targets in the current conflict, according to iDefense, simply because Palestinians or Israeli attackers may find them a good vehicle through which to promote their causes.
"What follows next no one knows for sure," said Adams, though he does speculate on a future in which hack attacks move beyond simple site defacement and into the realm of serious interference such as tampering with telephone and electrical grids. But for now, the cyber war rages on with assaults escalating in severity day by day. "Right now it’s anarchy out there," he said.