Cyberwar heats up in the Middle East

By Michael May

A researcher at Ben Gurion University's security department (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

A cyber-war between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli hackers is heating up. A group calling itself “Nightmare” targeted the Israeli stock exchange and El Al, the national airline on Monday, January 16.

Nightmare launched “denial of service” attacks, which overwhelm a website with requests and messages, on Monday, and disrupted both sites.

This latest cyber squabble began when a hacker from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who goes by the handle OxOmar, posted credit card information from thousands of Israelis online. An Israeli hacker, who dubbed himself OxOmer, countered by posting hundreds of Saudi credit card numbers online. The denial of service attacks followed.

The Israeli government has been a suspected cyber-aggressor in the past; there’s been claims that the nation was behind a virus that attacked Iranian nuclear facilities. But it appears that Israel is less prepared to defend against an attack.

An editorial in Israeli’s English language daily Haaretz, says the attacks should provoke new scrutiny on a controversial Israeli plan to create a biometric database for every Israeli citizen, so that the government can know that everyone entering the country is, in fact, the Israelis they say they are. But, Haaretz asks, what happens if such a database is hacked?

Another editorial, this time in the Israeli online site Ynet, argues that it’s time for the country to unite and mobilize against the online threat. Since the famed Israeli air force is powerless in the face of virtual aggression, the editorial says that Israel, which boasts a thriving high-tech sector, should unleash an elite geek force to fight off this online “Nightmare.”

Straight to the Source