Sponsored By

Breaking cybersecurity news, news analysis, commentary, and other content from around the world, with an initial focus on the Middle East & Africa.

Hackers Blast Violent Gaza Message at a Popular Israeli Movie Theater

A psyop targeting ordinary moviegoers is the latest in a string of similar attacks in the country since Oct. 7.

3 Min Read
Inside a shopping mall
Source: Bildagentur-online/Schoening via Alamy Stock Photo

On Jan. 23, Turkish hacktivists projected political messages about the war in Gaza onto digital signage in an Israeli movie theater.

The group, called MeshSec, targeted Lev Cinemas in Tel Aviv, one of the most frequented theaters in the country.

In imperfect Hebrew, the message read: "Stupid Jews, you are all terrorist killers. You are cowards. You will take responsibility for the hundreds of innocent children who died in Gaza. We will not give you peace, even in your movie theaters, until your massacres are over. We will destroy you all. We will limit your access to the Internet and banking services. God is with us."

View post on Twitter

The attack is just the latest case of psychologically oriented hacktivism invading Israeli public spaces since Oct. 7.

Hacking into digital billboards, it turns out, isn't so unlike hacking into any other corporate IT resource.

"Basically how it works is that there's a computer, or a management panel that runs any content you put on-screen — it could be a billboard, screens outside of a theater, anything like this," explains Gil Messing, chief of staff at Check Point Software. "The hackers are scanning the Internet to find any kind of exposed Internet connections, and default or no password protection, for things like this that they find interesting.

"Once they're inside the management panel, they can change the actual content on the panel to show whatever they want. It's kind of like changing a picture on a webpage," he adds.

The simplicity of the attack was equaled by the simplicity of the fix. As the Lev Cinemas CEO told Israeli news outlet YNet: "There is an external system that updates our screens and trailers. The hackers got into this system, and put up their messages — and within a few minutes we got on it, took it down, and the event was over."

Psychological Warfare in Israel's Streets

Amid the myriad DDoS, wipers, espionage, and more peppering Israel's various public and private industries in recent months, some hacktivist outfits have focused on spreading political messaging to civilians in the streets.

Consider: Lev Cinemas Tel Aviv is located on the upper floors of the Dizengoff center mall, located at the heart of the city. Walk only a short distance from its entrance, and you'll end up on the bridge connecting the mall's two wings. In the first week of the war, Messing recalls, cyberattackers briefly took over the large electronic billboards on the outer face of that walkway, above the busy city street below.

It was part of a broader compromise of a billboard company. As a result, around the same time, a large billboard in the sister city of Holon was also defaced. Displayed were animations of the Palestinian flag, and graphic Hamas footage from Oct. 7.

View post on Twitter

A variation on these billboard attacks came that same month, courtesy of an Iranian group that calls itself "CyberAv3ngers."

"They managed to hack the management platform of water pumps, and change the screen on the control panels. And they said it was hacked, but they didn't access the water pumps themselves, or their functions. It wasn't an operational thing, just a display of anti-Israeli messages. At one point they also did it to a water pump in the United States, in Pennsylvania," Messing explains.

"I think it's one of the main characteristics of cyber activities in our time," he adds. "There's ups and downs, but overall you can see that most attacks are about trying to create a sense of fear in people."

About the Author(s)

Nate Nelson, Contributing Writer

Nate Nelson is a freelance writer based in New York City. Formerly a reporter at Threatpost, he contributes to a number of cybersecurity blogs and podcasts. He writes "Malicious Life" -- an award-winning Top 20 tech podcast on Apple and Spotify -- and hosts every other episode, featuring interviews with leading voices in security. He also co-hosts "The Industrial Security Podcast," the most popular show in its field.

Keep up with the latest cybersecurity threats, newly discovered vulnerabilities, data breach information, and emerging trends. Delivered daily or weekly right to your email inbox.

You May Also Like


More Insights