Israel and the hacking threat

Published January 18th, 2012 - 05:05 GMT
Last week, the Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said: Israel would respond to cyber-attacks in the same way it responds to violent “terrorist” acts
Last week, the Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said: Israel would respond to cyber-attacks in the same way it responds to violent “terrorist” acts

The “Saudi hacker” managed on Monday to gain access to the website of the Israeli Stock exchange, causing it to temporarily break down, Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Jerusalem, Ziad Halaby said, pointing out that the operations at the Israeli Stock Exchange were not halted.

Meanwhile, the website of Israel’s national airline El Al was also closed earlier Monday, as a precautionary measure, after receiving a threat of a similar cyber-attack, the correspondent said. Both sites had a temporary message posted which said they had been taken down for “maintenance.” A spokeswoman for the stock exchange confirmed the site had come under attack but said it was only the website and that the trading systems themselves had not been affected.

“There is someone that has been attacking the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) website since this morning,” Idit Yaaron told AFP, describing what appeared to be a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS). “The trading systems are okay, there is no problem (with them),” she said. The Saudi hacker who initiated the recent wave of online attacks on Israeli sites informed Israel’s Ynet earlier of the planned attack, which he said was to be carried out by a group of pro-Palestinian hackers referring to themselves as “Nightmare.”

Monday’s incident follows a string of tit-for-tat hacking attacks which began on Jan. 3 when a Saudi hacker called “0xOmar” said he had posted details of 400,000 Israeli-owned cards online. Three days later, he said he had published another 11,000 card details but it turned out to be malware that infected anyone who downloaded the information. Israel’s main credit card companies said about 20,000 valid cards had been affected.

Earlier this week, an Israeli hacker calling himself “0xOmer” launched a counter-attack and posted details of 217 Saudi cards online, prompting another attack by the Saudi hacker who urged Arab and Muslim hackers to wage cyber warfare on the Jewish state. On Friday, hackers claiming to be from the Gaza Strip defaced the website of the Israel Fire and Rescue services, posting a message saying “Death to Israel,” a spokesman told AFP on Friday. Fire service spokesman Yoram Levy said that attackers who identified themselves as the “Gaza Hackers Team” struck its website late on Thursday and posted a picture of Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon with footprints over his face.

Last week, Ayalon said Israel would respond to cyber-attacks in the same way it responds to violent “terrorist” acts after hackers claiming to be from Saudi Arabia published details of tens of thousands of Israeli-owned credit cards online. Two days later, Ayalon’s website was briefly taken down after coming under attack, allegedly by hackers from Gaza, in an incident he blamed on “Muslim extremists.” In his latest message posted early late Friday, “0xOmar” hailed the Gaza hackers and threatened to expand the attacks on Israel. “This is the beginning of cyber war against Israel, you are not safe anymore. We’ll hack Israeli servers for different purposes like leaking Israeli data, sensitive and hidden information extraction and defacing web sites.”

Meanwhile, pro-Israeli hacker Hannibal, who claims that he is a “Jew who lives somewhere in the world,” published early Monday the Facebook account details of some 20,000 Arab users, Ynet reported. He also claimed to possess information that can be used to breach the bank accounts of some 10 million people in Iran and Saudi Arabia, vowing to cause billions of dollars in damage. Ynet confirmed that the details he published indeed allow for the unauthorized use of Facebook accounts.

Another hacker known as Yoni who presented himself as the leader of a group of Israeli hackers wrote on Ynet that “we do not operate against any certain nationality, and any person who operates against the group’s principles, regardless of religion, creed or gender, will be harmed. We, as a group, regret the harm done to innocents and aim to avoid it as much as is possible, yet in this war it’s a necessary move and we have no choice but to do it.” Meanwhile, a report in the English-language Jerusalem Post said the military was recruiting elite teams of hackers to spearhead the fight against cyber-attacks.

Last month, the army recruited nearly 300 young computer experts to serve in Military Intelligence as well as in the C4I Directorate -- the two units responsible for the army's cyber warfare efforts. “We are not where we would like to be when it comes to the cyber world and we are working to improve our capabilities,” a senior officer told the paper.

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