Hackers threaten ‘Israhell’ cyber-attack over Gaza

Israel already faces a million cyber-attacks a day; things might get worse before they get better, say experts

Screeenshot of a hacked Israeli site (Photo source: Screenshot)
Screeenshot of a hacked Israeli site (Photo source: Screenshot)

As the war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza rages on, anti-Israel hackers are gearing up for yet another large-scale cyber-attack on Israel. Set for Friday, July 11, #OpSaveGaza, anti-Israel hackers promise, the denial of service (DDOS) attack will be the “greatest campaign ever against ‘Israhell,’ to expose their terrorist activity to the world,” hackers wrote.

Such politically motivated cyber-attacks are almost routine, and so far israel’s record of foiling them is good.

Israel is ready, said Dina Beer, CEO of the Israel Internet Association (ISOC), which administers Israel’s Internet connections to the rest of the world. “I won’t say that such attacks are easy to deal with, but we are always ready to deal with them,” she told The Times of Israel. “Israel faces DDOS and hack attacks every day, so we’re experienced with how to deal with them. The difference during times of crises like these is the number of hackers that participate in the attacks.”

Despite that experience, it would be foolish to dismiss the attacks, said Isaac Ben-Israel, head of the Tel Aviv University’s Yuval Neeman Workshop for Science, Technology, and Security.

“Over the past few days, attacks have grown by 900% — instead of the usual 100,000 attacks we get each day, we are now getting a million such attacks, from all over the Arab and Muslim world,” he said. That number, he added, applied only to official government sites. “We have no way of knowing if a home or business computer has been hacked.”

Those attacks, Ben-Israel said in advance of a cyber-security conference the Workshop is holding next week, include attempts to steal data from sites, deface web pages, and pull down sites via DDOS attacks. In a DDOS attack, hackers marshal the power of tens or hundreds of thousands of computers to log onto a specific server at a specific time, in the hope of overloading it and forcing it to shut down. The tactic is successful more often than not, especially in countries with less well-developed networks. According to hacker group Anonymous, DDOS attacks have been successful in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Pakistan, among others. During Operation Pillar of Defense, the 2012 Israeli military campaign against Hamas, Israel was able to beat back some 44 million DDOS attacks in a space of just five days.

The newly announced hack attack seems to have been organized just in the past several days, said Beer. It’s similar in spirit to the recent OpIsrael DDOS attacks. Those attacks, which took place on April 7 this year (and on that date in 2013), entailed a major effort to topple Israeli government sites. The sites were able to stay up for the most part, though some users experienced delays, and a few web sites were forced to reboot, going off-line for a few minutes.

The hackers posted their manifesto on Facebook, Twitter, and Israeli sites they have already hacked. “Israhell never existed its only Palestine,” they wrote. “It’s our home. If you are a Hacker, Activist, a Human Right Organization then hack Israel websites and expose to the world their crimes, show to the world how much blood is on their hands, blood of innocent children and women,” the message reads, referring to the Israeli campaign against Hamas and its rocket launchers.

The hackers acknowledge that the Israeli attacks in Gaza are in response to the massive rocket fire by Gaza terrorists against Israel, but “the act of launching rockets from Gaza sector to Israhell is an acceptable and normal reaction against those pigs, its called Resistance and not terrorism,” the message reads.

It’s not clear how involved Anonymous is in the latest DDOS attack, said Beer. “Usually they organized these things well in advance, and even then their success record is very mixed. The organizers of this DDOS attack appear to be activists who hope that Anonymous will ‘adopt’ them.” Indeed, a check on Facebook of several purported Anonymous fan pages showed that while a few of the sites had a reference to #OpSaveGaza, most didn’t.

That doesn’t mean that groups claiming to work with Anonymous won’t join the campaign. “While Anonymous didn’t start this, it’s likely that the hackers who consider themselves part of the group will lend a hand,” said Beer. “The question for Israel is how many of them will join. The more attackers, the more effort is needed for defense.”

With that, Beer believes Israel will weather the storm. “We have very advanced protection systems that can detect when computers are creating phony traffic just to bring down a site, and we can automatically cut off those IP addresses from connecting. In addition, we can bar whole blocks of IP addresses from connecting to Israeli sites.” As the administrator of Israel’s Domain Name System (DNS) and Internet addresses, the organization can block unwanted web traffic before it even gets onto Israeli servers.

“In addition, the Internet service providers in Israel have similar defenses, but in case some roque requests get through,” Beer added. “We communicate with the ISPs through a chat app, so we all know what is going on, especially during crisis times like these, when we expect more cyber-attacks. I don’t see this DDOS operation being any more successful than the ones that have taken place in recent months.”


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