Israel under hack attack

© 2002 BBC

Tuesday, 16th April 2002 - Israel has been suffering a barrage of hack attacks since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000. According to security firm mi2g, the Israeli domain .il has been the biggest victim of web defacements over the past three years, suffering 548 of the 1,295 attacks in the Middle East.

As violence escalates in the region, cyber attacks on Israel are also on the rise. In the past 14 days, Israel has suffered about two-thirds of the significant web defacements in the Middle East.

Online threats

The most active anti-Israeli hacker group claims to be Egyptian and started its activities just weeks after 11 September. Cyber warfare could be used as a barometer for political tensions around the world, said mi2g Chief Executive, DK Matai. "The tense situation in the Middle East is reflected in both covert and overt hack attacks," he said.

Israel is vulnerable not just because of its action against the Palestinian Authority, but also because it has the largest number of internet connections in the Middle East. Israel has 2.4 million net connections, more than any of the 22 Arab countries.

Attacks on infrastructure?

So far "hacktivism" has been limited to web defacements and denial of service attacks. This is where a web server is bombarded with messages causing it to fall over. It was possible for the political hackers to intensify their campaign, said Peter Sommer, senior fellow at the Computer Security Research Centre at the London School of Economics. "It is entirely feasible to mount an attack on critical national infrastructure," he said. "From a pro-Arab point of view, it would be far more effective than sending in a suicide bomber."


Hacktivism is a growing problem on the internet, as activists utilise the web to get across their political messages. One of the most prolific hacktivists is a group of Pakistani hackers calling itself GForce Pakistan. Soon after the 11 September attacks on the US, the group defaced a server belonging to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. It also threatened to target US and British military sites unless the US withdrew from Saudi Arabia and ended its bombing campaign in Afghanistan. Similar attacks were seen during the Serbian conflict, the US-China spy plane incident in April 2001 and the China-Taiwan standoff in August 1999.

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