Just days after an attacker cited Palestinian sympathies released personal information on thousands of Israeli credit card users on the Internet, online attackers have launched a coordinated denial-of-service effort to disrupt online access to Israel’s El Al Airlines, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and three bands. Although the attacks have done little to disrupt daily operations—the TASE and El Al kept operating normally, and the banks claimed only their marketing sites had been disrupted—the incident has ratcheted up tensions in a region that seems perpetually on the edge of major conflict.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, although Hamas, which runs the Palestinian territory in Gaza, welcomed the attacks as retaliation against Israel.
The Jerusalem Post and other Israel media outlets have reported self-described Saudi hacker going by the handle 0xOmar has claimed additional attacks are on the way, to be carried out by a pro-Palestinian group dubbed “Nightmare.” The El Al Web site cited “Saudi hacker activity” as the source of the disruptions.
Israel’s information minister Yuli Edelstein told reporters at a conference in Tel Aviv that the the attacks were part of a larger effort to disrupt Israel’s security and economic security. Reuters quotes Edelstein as characterizing the attacks as a “campaign of delegitimization to hit our pockets and our lifestyle.”
Last week, Israeli officials revealed one of the most serious data thefts in the country’s history, confirming at least 20,000 active credit card accounts were compromised in a cyber attack at the beginning of the year. The data was published on the Internet; banks were forced to cancel customers’ cards and issue new ones. In apparent retaliation, an Israeli hacker going by the handle Hannibal published information about hundreds of Saudi credit card accounts.
Although politically-motivated online attacks are nothing new in the Middle East, the recent spate of tit-for-tat incidents highlights the complicated nature of cybersecurity, particularly as Israel builds its reputation as a hub of high-tech industries. For example, Apple just bought Israeli flash memory developer Anobit, and will establish an R&D center in Israel. Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and other top-tier technology companies already have Israeli-based operations.