As the fierce airstrikes between Israel and Hamas-led forces in the Gaza Strip rage on, another battle fought by volunteer cyberwarriors from around the world is striking out at Israel for its part in the bombings.
This two-dimensional battlefront is what cybersecurity experts say is "the new normal" for global conflict. "This is definitely the new normal in warfare, where kinetic force is used in conjunction with information operations and cyberattacks," says Jeffrey Carr, CEO of Taia Global.
Israeli officials yesterday said there have been more than 44 million hacking attempts against its government websites since the Gaza air strikes first began last Wednesday. A few hundred attempts are made each day, they said, including cyberattack attempts against the defense, prime minister, president, and Foreign Ministry websites.
Members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous say they have hit some 700 Israeli websites with defacements or DDoS attacks in response to the Gaza airstrikes. Anonymous via one of its Twitter feeds claimed to have deleted a Bank of Jerusalem database, as well as the database of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but both websites were online today.
Most of the attacks appear to be defacements and DDoSes, but some also include data dumps posted online, according to reports. Website reports of defacements included Israeli Microsoft sites, MSN, Skype, and Live, all of which are operating normally as of this posting. Some 88 website defacements had been posted on Pastebin.
An Anonymous online post includes a link that the group says contains a "leaked document of 50000 Israeli Officials."
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said yesterday that just one hack was successful on a website that resulted in about 10 minutes of downtime, but he would not name the site. "The ministry's computer division will continue to block the millions of cyberattacks," Steinitz said. "We are enjoying the fruits of our investment in recent years in developing computerized defense systems."
But cyberattacks against Israeli as well as Palestinian targets had been under way for some time, long before the air strikes. A recently discovered targeted cyberespionage campaign targeting Israeli and Palestinian organizations has been in operation for more than a year.
Researchers at Norman Security analyzed malware used in phishing emails targeting Israeli and Palestinian targets and found that attackers used malware based on the widely available Xtreme RAT crimeware kit. The attacks, which first hit Palestinian targets, this year began going after Israeli targets, including Israeli law enforcement agencies and embassies around the world. Norman says the same attacker is behind the attacks.
Israeli police last month yanked all of their computers offline after discovering a rogue file spreading around their systems. Seculert studied the attack and concluded that the attacks were based on the Xtreme Remote Access Trojan, and says the attackers could be Hamas hacktivists or other players.
Taia Global's Carr says Hamas has used hackers against Israel before. "This time, Anonymous allows them cover. Back in January 2009 in OpCastLead, individual hacker crews were more vocal about their own exploits," he says.
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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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