Breaking Analysis: Anonymous Stings Israel With Website Outages Over IDF Operation in Gaza

The Israeli government has reported no less than 44 million hacking attempts against security, governmental, and financial websites over the weekend as violence in the Gaza strip continues to escalate. Many of these attacks could be attributed to Anonymous, the hacktivist collective, who have gone back to their moral roots en masse and taken to cyberspace to make their voices clear on the matter.

A Pastebin post from a cell of the collective listed over 50 websites taken offline in the initial wave of protest from the collective. The post was released with little fanfare, no manifesto, and included the hashtags #OpIsrael and #GazaUnderAttack. Reports suggest that over 300 sites have come under attack, among them the Bank of Jerusalem. Those sites affected were vandalized or shut-down by attackers with the placement of common Anonymous ideography such as the Guy Fawkes mask or the Anonymous “man wearing suit with no head.”

On Friday, the Anon Relations released a long manifesto outlined the reasons for the massive attack against Israeli targets. It suggests that the triggering event was Israel’s threat to kill Internet connectivity to people in the Gaza strip. In the past, Anonymous have chosen their battles based on the ability of people to access free information and be part of collective communication—

“But when the government of Israel publicly threatened to sever all Internet and other telecommunications into and out of Gaza they crossed a line in the sand,” wrote an Anonymous cell spokesperson on Anon Relations. “As the former dictator of Egypt Mubarack learned the hard way – we are ANONYMOUS and NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch.” The message continued on to mention aid that would arrive from Anonymous in digital form including software, information on how to evade Internet surveillance, and how to reconnect to the Internet even if communications were cut off.

According to an article in The Telegraph UK, a post to AnonPaste solidified this underlying reason for the cyberattack from the collective:

“The reasons for Anonymous intervention through #OpIsrael should be abundantly clear: What is happening in Palestine is oppression. They have no navy, no army, or air force. There is no war in Gaza. There is only the continuous application of military force by Israel in an attempt to push every last person out of the Palestinian state, despite international laws that make these efforts illegal.”

The attacks against Israeli institutions and government websites reached their peak on Sunday with ten million attempts against Israel’s President Shimon Peres, seven million on the foreign ministry, and three million against Israel’s prime minister’s website.

The finance minister of Israel, Yuval Steinitz is quoted saying that the government was waging a second war now on “a second front – of cyber attacks against Israel.”

“The ministry’s computer division will continue to block the millions of cyber attacks,” Steinitz said. “We are enjoying the fruits of our investment in recent years in developing computerised defence systems.”

The fundamental difference between waging war and an attack from the Anonymous collective, however, is one not of numbers but of source. Warfare at least has a specific enemy, in a specific place—they might outflank or outthink you—but when it comes to Anonymous and the Internet, attacks can come from any country that harbors sympathizers, which undoubtedly contains most first world countries and large portions of the world.

With the prevalence of poorly built websites, SQL-injection vulnerabilities, and enough determined attackers it’s likely that the Israeli cyberspace will continue to see fireworks this entire week.

[Image credit: AP Photo,  Anonymous protest in Hungary in February]

About Kyt Dotson

Technology and civilization walk hand in hand and civilization is nothing without the skin of society, brushing up against itself, speaking strange nothings across dimly lit avenues and computer screens. If we're going to understand ourselves in this digital era, it will be through watching the adoption of technology by people to express themselves as people. I am an anthropologist and an author of science fiction and fantasy--and with my technology, I hope to open up new and exciting worlds that will not just enlighten the humanity of my friends and fans but also educate and enhance the expression of their own personhood. Find more of my work on Google+; send tips to @kytsune.