Latest Arab-Israeli Conflict Is Growing Cyberwar
It is a conflict that is growing bigger by the day as Israeli and Arab hackers attack national websites across the Middle East and release thousands of items of personal data.
The hacking appears to be the work of civilians rather than governments, and there has been little economic damage, but all sides are threatening widen the scope of their attacks in the coming days.
On Wednesday night, pro-Palestinian hackers attacked the website of Israel's anti-drug authority. They redirected visitors to a page showing masked gunmen next to the phrases "Death to Israel" and "Gaza hackers were here," according to the Jerusalem Post. The site has since been restored.
This morning, denial-of-service attacks were launched against the websites of the Arab Bank of Palestine and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates. An Israeli group calling itself "IDF Team" claimed responsibility.
"We are operating in the name of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces]," they wrote on Wednesday after attacking the websites of the Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi stock exchanges. "If you don't stop attacking us, we will paralyze your economy." (Saudi authorities later denied the hackers had managed to take down their site.)
These episodes are the latest in a back-and-forth that has been going on for two weeks. It started when a hacker called "0xOmar," claiming to be from Saudi Arabia, published online hundreds of thousands of credit cards numbers belonging to Israelis. Israeli authorities said that due to repetition, the actual number was around 15,000 or so but banks scrambled to shut down the accounts.
"Israel attacks and kills innocent Palestinian people, they (commit) genocide, they even break legal international rules," 0xOmar told the Israeli news site YNet. "I want to harm Israel financially and socially."
He banded together with a group calling itself "Nightmare" to hamper the sites of the Israeli national airline El Al and the Tel Aviv stock exchange on Monday.
Hackers from Israel, a country known for its technological prowess, joined in the retaliation calling themselves names like "Hannibal," "Anonymous972? (Israeli's country code), and "Team IDF."
"We are doing this out of a sense of concern and caring," members of Team IDF told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. They claimed to have thousands of Saudi credit card numbers as well as the holders' details.
"We don't believe in hurting innocent civilians. There is no reason to publicize the data at this stage," they said. "If there isn't any choice, we'll have to do that as well. We are only trying to prevent further attacks in the future on the State of Israel."
All sides have put out bravado-filled statement promising more in the coming days. So far, no major damage has been reported and the attacks appear to have been only carried out by civilians.
"Individual initiatives by Israeli hackers to attack Saudi hackers, or hackers from anywhere else for that matter, are ineffective and shouldn't be done in Israel's name," said Israel's Minister of Intelligence Dan Meridor. But the attacks show no signs of abating.
"We won't stop hacking into them until they stop hacking into us," an Israeli hacker told Yedioth Ahronoth. "This is spreading like fire in a field of thorns. Every self-respecting Israeli hacker is joining us now and is helping with our war effort."