Hackers purporting to be affiliated with the collective Anonymous have for days been threatening a massive cyber attack against Israel on Sunday. Their stated vow: to "erase Israel from cyberspace.”
While Israeli government websites appeared to be functioning as of Sunday morning Israel time, Israel supporters had a surprise for the would-be attackers. The OpIsrael website associated with some of the anti-Israel hackers was itself hacked and late Saturday was playing Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah. It also listed 20 facts about Israel not usually recognized by the Jewish state’s detractors, including:
• Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.
• King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.
• Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.
Though the hackers have been issuing statements about their virtual conquests thus far, including hacking into the Facebook accounts of 19,000 Israelis, the claims could not be verified, and – according to the Times of Israel - should be viewed skeptically:
The hackers released a list of some 1,300 Israeli sites that they planned to strike, claiming to have begun their attacks already on Saturday. But a check of most of the sites that the hackers claimed to have disabled – sites belonging to the Bank of Israel, the Tax Authority, the Central Bureau of Statistics, and other government agencies – showed they were operating normally. Several sites were hacked by groups associated with OpIsrael, but most of those were privately owned sites.
The hackers claimed to be identified with Anonymous, but Dr. Tal Pavel of MiddleEasterNet said that the group behind OpIsrael was most likely an ad-hoc assembly of Arab hacktivists calling themselves “Dangerous Hackers.” The group was not necessarily associated with international hacking group Anonymous, Pavel said, and on Saturday, individuals claiming to be members of Anonymous posted on the forum site 4Chan that they were not associated with OpIsrael. However, another alleged Anonymous site, possibly located in Sweden, on Saturday night claimed that Anonymous hackers were involved in the anti-Israel cyber attack.
Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, an official with the Israeli government's National Cyber Bureau, said the attack was barely felt.
"So far it is as was expected, there is hardly any real damage," Ben Yisrael said. "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."
The anti-Israel hackers said they are protesting Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. They threatened "the largest Internet battle in the history of mankind."
"You have not stopped your endless human right violations," the group said. "You have not stopped illegal settlements. You have not respected the ceasefire. You have shown that you do not respect international law,” the hackers said.
"This is why that on April 7, elite cyber-squadrons from around the world have decided to unite in solidarity with the Palestinian people against Israel as one entity to disrupt and erase Israel from cyberspace,” the group said.
Hamas praised the hackers' efforts. Ihab Al- Ghussian, chief spokesman of Gaza's Hamas government, wrote on his official Facebook page: "God bless the minds and the efforts of the soldiers of the electronic battle."
Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day beginning Sunday night with ceremonies commemorating the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews.
The hackers defending Israel from the onslaught call themselves the Israeli Elite Strike Force. The Times of Israel reports that the group “disabled dozens of sites in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and several north African countries” over the weekend.
That group tweeted: “We wish all our JEWISH brothers a Shabbat Shalom [peaceful Sabbath].”
“This was just a little taste before the day of rest. Hell’s Fire To Come,” it added.
Israeli cyber-security experts warned citizens to strengthen their passwords and even avoid the Internet for a day or two. Israel radio reported that some large organizations decided to temporarily shut down their websites to avoid being attacked.