Kremlin-affiliated hackers said to attack Knesset website, citing Ukraine aid

Russian group Xaknet takes responsibility for hack, which raises concerns of potential election interference

An illustrative image of a hacker (Михаил Руденко; iStock by Getty Images)
An illustrative image of a hacker (Михаил Руденко; iStock by Getty Images)

A group of Kremlin-affiliated Russian hackers recently targeted the website of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, according to a Wednesday report.

The website was brought down overnight between Sunday and Monday by a Russian group of hackers called Xaknet, briefly rendering the site unavailable for users in Israel and abroad, Channel 12 reported.

The attack was described as a relatively simple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which denies service by overwhelming a website’s server with a flood of internet traffic.

The Knesset’s cybersecurity unit was able to regain control and bring the site back up within minutes, the report said.

However, the attack by hackers believed to have ties to the Kremlin has raised concerns in Israel of possible foreign interference in the country’s general elections next week, November 1.

Xaknet took responsibility for the attack on Telegram and said it was carried out as revenge for what it said was Israel’s intelligence assistance to Ukraine on offensive drones provided to Russian forces by Iran.

An error message received by users who tried to access the website of Israel’s Knesset after a suspected attack by Russian hackers on October 23, 2022. (Channel 12)

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he saw a “positive trend” in Kyiv’s relations with Jerusalem after the two countries shared intelligence on about 400 Iranian drones that Russia has used in its invasion.

“So we are at the beginning of cooperation, this is a positive trend in relations with Israel,” Zelensky said during a press conference in Kyiv, adding that “after a long pause, I see us moving forward.”

Ukraine recently claimed that Tehran has been providing Moscow with suicide drones and has reported downing numerous drones that seem to have been produced in Iran.

Tehran has denied the claims.

This undated photograph released by the Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. (Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate via AP)

According to a report by cyber intelligence news site Treadstone 71, Xaknet first appeared in February 2022 after staging several attacks against Ukrainian targets, including the official website of the president of Ukraine and its foreign ministry.

Israel has so far maintained a strict policy of not providing military aid to Ukraine since Russian troops invaded on February 24, including systems that could help it intercept Russian missile and drone attacks.

The recent intelligence assistance to Kyiv and the timing, ahead of next week’s election, raised concerns among some Israeli officials that the cyberattack, though minor, could signal an escalation in Israel’s relations with Russia.

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