Politically minded hackers, dubbed hacktivists have targeted Israel’s online sector, disrupting the country’s cyber activities and defacing websites like the Jerusalem Post amid the war between Israel and Gaza.
The conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbour, which began on Saturday, 7 October, has attracted intense global interest and also, the attention of hacktivists, who have launched an online war in support of their favoured side in the conflict.
Speaking on the hacking groups, cyber intelligence firm, Recorded Future stated that, “there are dozens of victims per day, claimed by both pre-established and new groups,”.
The hackers haven’t achieved any serious or long-term damage, but the cyberwar has generated interest regarding digital warfare. These attacks have proven fears from tech investors that Israel’s tech sector was in danger of being disrupted by hackers.
According to Reuters, a set of hackers known as AnonGhost, who support Palestine militant group, Hamas, have claimed they disrupted an Israeli emergency alert application, which they posted on their social media channel.
Another group, named AnonymousSudan, posted on Telegram that they were actively targeting Israel’s critical infrastructure, although the group has yet to provide any evidence to back its claims.
The cyberattacks have affected over 100 websites in Israel. Security analysts say the hackers temporarily disrupted these websites through simple distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), by simply flooding the sites with a rush of inauthentic traffic.
Jerusalem Post Editor-in-chief, Avi Mayer, has called the attacks a “blatant assault on freedom of the press,” complaining in an email that “the attackers have managed to knock us offline for extended periods over the past few days,”
Last week, Microsoft released a report which recorded the exploits of one Gaza-based hacker group known as Storm-1133 which increased its cyber spying efforts on Israeli companies involved in telecommunications, defense and energy earlier this year. Microsoft concluded in the report that the group was working to further the interests of Hamas.
Israel has been working to protect its online infrastructure from such hackers. The chief executive of Israel cybersecurity firm, Profero Omri Segev Moyal, said his firm had recently picked up some hacking activity tied to an Iranian spy group nicknamed Muddy Water, and intrusion attempts potentially linked to Molerats, another group that researchers believe acts for Hamas.
Molerats has, however, gone offline “after the bombing started,” Moyal added.
This isn’t the first occurrence of hacktivists waging cyberwar on the side they oppose during a conflict. The Russia-Ukraine war witnessed a similar dynamic, with a volunteer army of pro-Ukraine hackers claiming they launched numerous attacks on Russian websites and other online services.
Analysts expect significant cyber-espionage activity to happen behind the scenes during the war between Israel and Gaza as well.