JERUSALEM – Reports are circulating that in the days leading up to Yom HaShoah – to be commemorated this year in Israel next Monday – a group of global cyber-terrorists, many of its members based in Arab countries across North Africa and the Persian Gulf, are readying for major cyber attacks against a large number of important Israeli websites. Being targeted are banks, credit card companies, telecom outlets and government ministries.
Additionally, Israel’s intelligence community is concerned about the possibility that hackers might then launch a second cyber attack the next week during the nation’s Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebrations.
According to a report in Israel Hayom the coordinated attack, dubbed OpIsrael, is part of a global effort to unite several anti-Israel hacking groups, including Anonymous and AnonGhost, “as one entity and wipe the Jewish state’s presence off of the Internet.” One of the AnonGhost cyber-terrorists, whose moniker is “Mauritania Attacker,” said that the hacking blitz would be the “largest operation” ever launched against any nation. Hundreds of Israeli websites were attacked by hackers from Anonymous during last year’s IDF Operation Pillar of Defense against Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups in Gaza.
Israeli websites have endured thousands of attacks during the past year. Though the sites have been quickly repaired and guarded with new defensive “firewalls,” a high-ranking executive from one of the country’s elite cyber security firms told Israel Hayom that the cyber-terrorists’ skills are “increasing” but have yet to reach the catastrophic stage. However, there is a growing concern among local cell phone company owners that sophisticated hackers could unexpectedly disrupt nationwide service at a critical juncture.
Over the past few months, several mysterious incidents caused hundreds of thousands of cell phone customers from two of Israel’s largest providers to suddenly lose connectivity for periods of several hours. While the cell phone companies have denied they were hacked, company executives refused to provide consumers with a cogent explanation for the loss of service. (A large number of Israel’s government and military personnel are contracted with the country’s largest cell phone providers.)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently authorized a budget for the creation of a new ultra-advanced cyber warfare division culled from various secret computer warfare units, which have been in existence within the IDF bureaucracy since the 1990s. Some of these top- secret units have reportedly been responsible for taking the initiative against potential cyber-terrorist operations. It is believed that these units have attempted to infiltrate into government and military installations in Lebanon, Syria and Iran in order to thwart potential threats against Israel.
Despite Israel’s advanced cyber-security capabilities, many websites and regular Internet users are still vulnerable to attacks. The cyber-terrorists try to infect websites with “Trojan Horse” viruses that are inadvertently downloaded into home- or office-based computers (end-users). Israeli cyber-security professionals have told their business clients and individual users that until the threat passes, they should refrain from visiting well-known sites that could be hacked.