The proverbial water-cooler talk at the start of the week in Israel was whether or not to turn on one’s personal computer. On the one hand, anti-Israel hacking collective known as Anonymous threatened to “disrupt and erase Israel from cyberspace” in protest over its mistreatment of Palestinians. On the other hand, Israel is renowned for its firewall security and keeping hackers at bay.
So, I called my computer technician. “Either I’ll have to come over or I won’t,” he said, after I checked about the possibility of acquiring Trojan Horses when logging on.
Anonymous launched its main attack on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The bitter group of hackers declared major damages to Israel’s cyber infrastructure, posting links to disrupted sites and publishing anti-Israel graphics of hacked homepages.
Anonymous says it disrupted more than 100,000 Israeli web sites and caused over $3 billion in damages with its campaign, called #OpIsrael.
The angry hackers boasted that they shut down certain government sites — Bank of Israel, the Education Ministry, the Central Bureau of Statistics – yet nothing seemed amiss when I clicked on their links.
Some sites took more time to load but Israeli officials say the attack was largely unsuccessful. An official overseeing the government’s websites said some slowdowns were expected because of government countermeasures.
“So far it is as was expected, there is hardly any real damage,” Yitzhak Ben Yisrael of the government’s National Cyber Bureau told Israel’s Army Radio. “Anonymous doesn’t have the skills to damage the country’s vital infrastructure. And if that was its intention, then it wouldn’t have announced the attack of time. It wants to create noise in the media about issues that are close to its heart.”
Unsurprisingly, Israeli hackers – armed with code and pro-Israel messages – joined the cyber battle as soon as it started. A group called the Israeli Elite Strike Force acquired the domain name opisrael.com and posted educational facts about Israel and the Jewish people.
According to the Times of Israel, the Elite Strike Force also disabled dozens of anti-Israel sites in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and several North African countries.
And of course to keep track of all the damage and pseudo-damage being done in this cyber war, I stayed logged on to the Net. I reminded myself that Israel is considered one of the world’s cyber powers and I didn’t have much choice but to put my faith in blue-and-white web security if I wanted to work this week.
“It is a good test for our defense systems, and we will know better how to deal with more serious threats in the future,” Shlomi Dolev, an expert on network security and cryptography at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, told AP. “This is a real battle. It is good training for our experts.”
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