After April’s largely unsuccessful campaign by Anonymous and Arab hackers, #OpIsrael, to “remove Israel from the Internet,” a second round of hack attacks against Israeli sites, “OpIsrael Reloaded,” is planned for Saturday. The followup campaign seeks to demonstrate that Israel did indeed sustain a great deal of damage and economic loss during the first effort.
The campaign has picked up some steam on hacker networks, but is unlikely to be as large as #OpIsrael. There were dozens of YouTube videos “advertising” that campaign with hundreds of thousands of views, while #OpIsraelReloaded showed up just a few times on the site, with only a few thousand views recorded, as of Thursday evening. Nevertheless, system administrators in government and enterprise are redoubling their network defenses to ensure that they weather the coming storm.
This time, however, the identities of the Anonymous hackers planning the attack are a little less, well, Anonymous. Born on the eve of the original #OpIsrael in April, a pro-Israel hacker team called the Israel Elite Force (IEF) has been responding in kind, defacing sites in Arab countries and publishing what it claims are names and passwords for credit card, Facebook, bank and email accounts, and other information that is supposed to be secure.
The IEF’s latest gambit seeks to “rip the mask off the hackers attacking Israel,” the group says in a video. A message on a hacker site and in the IEF’s Twitter feed refers web surfers to a web page listing personal details of individuals the group says are key figures in the #OpIsrael hacking operations. The information was gathered, the group said, by hackers in its own organization, and with the help of a joint team of American and Israeli hackers.
“We know who you are,” the group says on its page. “You can not hide! You can not escape!” Following the introduction, the page posts several full-color photos, names, locations, and IP addresses of administrators and hackers who, it says, are actively involved in attempting to hack Israeli sites, and who hail from India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, and Malaysia, among other places.
In a message on a hacker site, the IEF writers tell their readers that they “want us to meet someone,” and go on to provide extensive details – including details of his education (M.Sc. in economics), location, computer hosting service, and a photo – of one of the hackers. “This is only one person.. and i got OVER 9000!,” writes the Israeli hacker behind the revelation, adding, for good measure “Don’t try me, Don’t make me mad.”
If the information is really correct, said Tal Pavel of the security group Middle Eastern Net and a lecturer at Netanya Academic College, “it would be a heretofore unprecedented development in the Middle East hacking arena. One of the most important resources hackers use, and need, is their anonymity, and losing that — with the screen between the cyber and physical world removed — could have a major impact on the nature of the hacking conflict between Israel and its cyber-enemies.”
The only way to confirm the information about the hackers’ identities would be to do an extensive vetting process, said Pavel. “If the information is accurate it shows that they did very good research.” Such unmasking of cyber-identities is by no means unprecedented; Anonymous itself, Pavel said, has on several occasions “outed” pedophiles, discovering their real names and locations, and giving the data to police for further action. “So it’s quite possible that the information on the hackers is correct,” he added.
If it is, the revelations could open a new, and more serious, front in the ongoing cyberwar. “If Israeli hackers are revealing the names and phone numbers of Arab and Pakistani hackers, they might in turn target security personnel and publish details of top IDF generals, police officers, or even Mossad or Shabak [Shin Bet security agency] agents online.” Israel is known to have extensive networks of informers in the West Bank, for example; and if hackers specifically target the databases where that information is stored and release it, Israel’s intelligence operations could be severely hampered — not to mention the lives that would be lost, as the PA leadership executes the “collaborators” the hackers help uncover. “There’s no question that a border has been crossed,” said Pavel. “We will now have to see where that brings us.”