Silent Saboteurs: Hackers Influence the Israeli-Hamas Standoff…

Silent Saboteurs: Hackers Influence the Israeli-Hamas Standoff

Supporters of Hamas in the hacking community are attempting to turn the Israel-Gaza conflict into a new theatre of cyberwarfare.

Israel has been the target of a number of cyberattacks and internet operations by entities with ties to Iran and Russia during the past week, some of which may have occurred before Hamas’s attack on October 7.

Teams of hackers have been bragging on Telegram about breaking into several websites, the Israeli power grid, a rocket alert app, and the Iron Dome missile defence system. The Jerusalem Post is one of several Israeli publications to admit hackers momentarily disabled its website.

The scope and depth of the cyberattacks are unknown. Online campaigns, however, demonstrate an effort to supplement the physical onslaught with a digital offensive, perhaps seeking to emulate the way Russia and friendly hacktivists buffeted Ukraine with cyber strikes in the conflict’s early days.

Whether or not Hamas acted alone in carrying out this lethal attack may also be shown by the loyalties of the groups responsible. While there may be no overt connections between these organisations and governments abroad, some of them engage in hacking that benefits the nations that provide them with safe haven, such as Iran, a longtime backer of Hamas.

Check Point Software, an Israeli cybersecurity firm, had a spokesperson named Liz Wu say that from the day of the Hamas onslaught, the firm had tracked more than 40 groups undertaking attacks that swamped and disabled more than 80 websites. Both official and media outlets were among them.

Since internet access in Gaza was poor even before the attacks, and has been considerably worse in the days since due to power outages and Israeli bombings, it’s likely that the hackers are located elsewhere.

Former Western cyber officer says it’s doubtful Hamas could have coordinated a cyberattack with their invasion because they used inefficient methods of communication to plot. The individual speculated that working in tandem with online hackers might have alerted Israeli authorities.

“Hard to say which of these claims is real,” Check Point chief of staff Gil Messing stated. The databases they provide are sometimes repurposed from previous data breaches but presented as new. None of the purportedly harmed organisations reported any negative effects.

Nonetheless, these organisations possess a level of expertise that should not be underestimated, according to Jim Himes (D-Conn.), the ranking member of the United States House Intelligence Committee.

Himes, speaking as he exited a confidential briefing on the battle on Wednesday, said, “Hamas and Hezbollah and Iranian-backed hackers are a heck of a lot better than you might think.” The online world requires close monitoring.

In comparison to the online battleground during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the real cyber damage in Israel was quite minor. In the hours before Russian tanks crossed the border, hackers attacked the communication systems of the Kyiv Post and the KA-SAT satellite network, creating massive communications outages. Hacktivist groups on both sides have continued attacking and disrupting services ever since.

During the strike on October 7th, Hamas tried more direct methods to evade and disrupt the massive Israeli monitoring system. This included scouting areas with fewer cameras, tearing down fences, firing rockets, and destroying drones before they could take flight.

Local health officials in Gaza report that more than 2,000 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for the Hamas offensive.
Conflict timeline

This week saw several hacks with obvious consequences: After persons pretending to be Hamas terrorists Zoombombed live sessions, the Israeli ministry of education reportedly switched from Zoom to Google for video meetings. According to Editor-in-Chief Avi Mayer, the Jerusalem Post’s website was intermittently down for several hours in the days following the incident.

The pro-Russian Anonymous Sudan claimed responsibility for a distributed denial-of-service attack against the Israeli Red Alert app, which supplies users with up-to-the-minute rocket data. gang-IB, a cybersecurity organisation, also discovered manipulation of the programme by the AnonGhost gang. The removal of the app from the Google Play market was confirmed by AWN, as reported by Group-IB.

Some of the accusations were hard to back up. On October 6th, the city of Yavne was plunged into darkness after a hacker group named Cyber Av3ngers, which has ties to Iran, claimed credit for attacking an Israeli electric contractor. The attack was not confirmed by the energy company or city officials.

Soon after, groups calling themselves Cyber Av3ngers, Anonymous Sudan, and Russia-aligned Killnet claimed responsibility for hacking the websites of the Israel Policy Forum and the Israeli Ministry of Finance. By Friday, all of the sites were operational again, and there was no independent confirmation of the attacks.

Threat intelligence analyst at Recorded Future Alexander Leslie said, “At this time, we have no evidence that there is any coordination between attacks on the ground and in cyberspace.” We find that the vast majority of hacktivist-claimed cyberattacks are reactive and opportunistic.
The threat of Iranian hacking

Israel has been engaged in covert conflicts with Iran for many years, and Tehran is a major supporter of the Hamas militants who carried out strikes this weekend in Israel. At least one social media-based disinformation campaign targeting Israel has been traced back to Iran, according to security experts.

Years of internet attacks have led up to the current round of animosity. In 2020, hackers from Iran allegedly attempted but failed to inject more chlorine into Israel’s water supply. In 2010, the Stuxnet virus was found; at the time, it was thought to be an American and Israeli operation designed to disrupt Iran’s nuclear programme. A cyberattack on a major Iranian port in 2020 was also blamed on Israel.

Former U.S. Cyber Command deputy director and now-retired Lt. Gen. Charles Moore remarked, “Right now I assess that Iran is happy to direct and support all forms of operations, both cyber and kinetic, via their proxies.”

He added that he anticipates a “very aggressive influence, propaganda campaign by Iran” in response to the ongoing developments in Israeli operations in Gaza.

Cyberattacks on Israel are also challenging. It’s a hub for the global surveillance industry and is regarded as one of the most cyber-advanced countries. Cyber assistance to Israel has been ramped up by the Biden administration. The Israeli computer sector reportedly also organised its own “citizen cyber brigades” in the days following the Hamas strike.

Many people inside and outside of government are “quite perplexed” by the question of “how Israeli and U.S. intelligence failed to detect such a large-scale operation by Hamas,” as Moore put it. However, Israeli cyber troops are regarded as among the world’s greatest.

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