Internet activist group Anonymous declared Monday OpIsrael Day, on which hackers promised to bring down or break into any Israeli website they could. Several web sites — including those of the country’s postal service and Education Ministry — were brought down for a short period of time. Hackers also reportedly published online a list of phone numbers, emails and passwords of senior Israeli officials, but sources said that the list was outdated. A few private Israeli websites were also brought down.
Anonymous, the loosely organized international hacker organization, had vowed to replace content on websites with anti-Israel messages or disable them with Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks. The organized attack fell on April 7, the anniversary of last year’s attempt, when hackers threatened to “erase Israel from the Internet.”
Hackers usually attack sites in an attempt to steal passwords or credit card numbers or for the fun of it. In Israel, hacking is a political act, according to a new report by the Howden Broking Group, the local branch of the UK-based international insurance group. The report said that 80 percent of cyber-attacks on Israeli business sites were conducted by anti-Israel organizations, headed by groups like Anonymous.
Government offices had urged workers to take precautions for Monday, such as avoiding links or attachments in email messages, changing passwords and avoiding websites suspected of infecting visitors with malware.
But those precautions won’t prevent DDOS attacks, a common tool used by anti-Israel hackers, which prevent normal browsing. According to Shay Simkin, CEO of Howden Israel, the website suffix .co.il, used by most Israeli business sites, is an invitation to hackers.
“Sites with the .co.il suffix are five times more likely to be attacked than sites with a generic .com suffix,” he said. “The same goes for any site that contains the word ‘Israel’ or associated concepts in its name.”
“For hackers looking for credit card information, there is nothing special about Israel, and the attacks are based on how secure (or not) a database is,” Simkin said. Hackers target Israel at the same rate as other countries. The “extra” attacks Israel suffers, he said, can be attributed to hacktivists, as ideologically motivated hackers are known.
Even with the increased risk of hacking, Israel is not the most dangerous place on the Internet, according to Kaspersky Lab, an international anti-virus firm. The company recently released its Worldwide Interactive Cyberthreat Map, which shows in real time what types of attacks are taking place and where.
Users can rotate the globe and zoom in to get a closer look at the local threat landscape. Different types of threats are detected in real time and color-coded. The user can bring a description of each threat up on the screen or disable the display of threat types. There are buttons to share data on social networking sites and switch the background color, language interface and display mode (flat map or rotating globe). There is also a link to check if a computer is infected with malicious software.
According to the map, Israel is the 57th most infected country in the world — far better than most other Western countries or major economies. Russia is the most infected country, followed by the US and China; most European countries are in the top 30 on the list. The rankings are based on alerts from computers that have Kaspersky anti-virus software installed. The map updates different types of attacks, including Trojan horses, attempted invasions of a system by malware downloaded from a web site and more.
“Every day Kaspersky Lab handles more than 300,000 malicious objects. Three years ago, the figure was just 70,000, but antivirus technologies have also changed with the times and we have no problem coping with this huge stream of traffic,” Denis Zenkin, head of corporate communications at Kaspersky Lab, said.
“Where do the attacks come from? Where do users click on malicious links most often? Which types of malware are the most prevalent? These are the sort of questions being asked by lots of users. Our new map of the otherworldly threat landscape allows everyone to see the scale of cyber activity in real time and to get a taste of what it feels like to be one of our experts.”
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