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12/31/2008
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Hundreds of Israeli Websites Hacked in 'Propaganda War'

Attackers deface sites with anti-Israeli and anti-U.S. messages as bombings escalate in Gaza; U.S. Webmasters warned to be vigilant

It didn't take long after Israel's bombing of Gaza began for cyberwarfare to erupt as well: More than 300 Israeli Websites over the past few days have been hacked and defaced with anti-Israeli and anti-U.S. messages in an online propaganda campaign, a security expert says.

Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, warned in his blog that U.S. Websites should be prepared for similar attacks. "In the current situation, the hackers supporting Gaza clearly believe Israel AND the US are culpable. That means American webmasters may wish to be especially vigilant right now," Warner blogged.

The attacks on Israeli sites occurred within a period of 48 hours, in what Warner calls a "Propaganda War."

"As soon as Israel started bombing Gaza we began to look for signs of a cyber response. And we've found it, in the form of more than 300 Israeli websites which have been defaced with anti-Israeli and anti-US messages," Warner blogged.

He says these types of propaganda Website attacks are all about location, not size or prominence of the targeted site. "It only matters WHERE the Website is," he says.

Website propaganda defacements are nothing new. In 2001, Chinese hackers hit tens of thousands of U.S. Websites with messages blaming the United States after a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. Navy plane collided. More recently, Israel's bombing of Lebanon in 2006 was the topic of defacements of U.S. sites.

Warner advises Webmasters to check the content of their sites each day for tampering, to patch regularly, and to use strong passwords and Secure FTP.

Meanwhile, Israel is reportedly using blogs, Twitter, and YouTube to wage a military digital media war of sorts.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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