Anonymous targets Israeli sites in annual '#OpIsrael' cyber attacks
Pro-Palestinian hackers have targeted Israeli websites following threats from the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous
Videos posted in advance of the event claimed that the group would “erase” the country from cyberspace. But the attacks seemed to have little effect, briefly taking down smaller websites and resulting in the release of a small batch of what was claimed to be personal data.
While Anonymous members have launched attacks on Islamist militants and child abusers in recent months, they have had mixed results and often failed to make any of the impact that has been promised.
Twitter accounts and other users associated with anonymous claimed that over 150,000 pieces of personal information related to Israeli citizens had been leaked. They uploaded a Pastebin article about the achievement, and linked to that cache of documents — though none of them has yet been verified.
Anonymous videos claimed that “elite cyber-squadrons, from around the world, will decide to unite in solidarity, with the Palestinian people, against Israel, as one entity to disrupt and erase Israel from cyberspace”. But the country took down no active websites used by the government.
Sites that were hit — including an old website of the country’s economic ministry — were replaced with an image claiming the attack had been carried out by “AnonGhost”, and pictures of Muslim holy sites and Arabic script.
The attack claimed to be carried out in protest against Israeli “crimes” in Palestine.
“We are coming back to punish you again, for your crimes in the Palestinian territories,” it says, in English with Arabic subtitles.
“All we see is continuous aggression, bombing, killing and kidnapping of the Palestinian people, as in the last war against Gaza in 2014.”
The voice claims Anonymous will not stand by as foreign countries remain “silent” and will respond to “heinous crimes against humanity”.
Showing footage from the Gaza conflict last summer, which the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) labelled Operation Protective Edge, the voiceover continued: “We'll erase (Israel) from cyber space as we have every year - 7 April 2015 will be an electronic holocaust.”
Anonymous calls young Palestinians the “symbol of freedom, resistance, and hope”, telling them to “never give in” and vowing support.
Clips of newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in what appears to be a war briefing room flash up as the voiceover turns to “Zionist entities”.
“As promised in previous attacks, we will continue to electronically attack until the people of Palestine are free,” the simulated voice says.
“As shown in previous attacks, we will continue to invade and attack your devices, websites and personal data.”
It accuses the Israeli government of “endless” human right violations, illegal settlements, the killing of civilians and contraventions of international law.
“This is why elite cyber-squadrons, from around the world, will decide to unite in solidarity, with the Palestinian people, against Israel, as one entity to disrupt and erase Israel from cyberspace,” it finishes. “We'll show you on 7 April 2015 what the electronic holocaust means.”
Anonymous has launched cyber attacks on Israel in the past, starting in 2012 during the Gaza conflict codenamed Operation Pillar of Defence by the IDF, and most recently last year.
This is the third year an attack will happen on 7 April, which comes just over a week before Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day, known as Yom HaShoah.
Benjamin T Decker, a senior intelligence analyst at Tel Aviv-based risk consultancy The Levantine Group, told Newsweek that Israeli authorities do not consider Anonymous a serious threat after four years of "posturing".
“As the years have progressed we have seen that, despite their increasing sophistication in hacking techniques, we have seen less damage against Israeli cyber-infrastructures, largely due to Israel's pioneering of most cyber-warfare tactics, both offensive and defensive,” he said.
But there have been differing claims about the attacks’ impact. According to Anonymous, #Op_Israel in 2013 caused $3 billion (£2 billion) worth of damage to Israel and targeted more than 100,000 websites, 40,000 Facebook pages, 5,000 Twitter accounts and 30,000 Israeli bank accounts, Haaretz reported.
The government insisted there was no major disruption, although attacks blocked websites and resulted in officials’ personal data and contact details being posted online.
Other hacks have targeted websites belonging to Mossad, the IDF, Bank of Jerusalem and Foreign Ministry, making them unavailable.
Israeli analysts said that most of the attacks had been coming from North Africa and the Middle East.
“It’s important to note that this is being led exclusively by the Middle Eastern contingent of Anonymous, rather than the entirety of the organisation,” added Decker.