" Costin Raiu, director of global research and analysis at computer security company Kaspersky Lab, said it was unlikely the Saudi hackers had created their own network of infected computers, known as a botnet, to attack the Israeli sites. “They are probably renting one from other groups, or maybe they have taken over someone else’s,” he said."
From today's FT, FYI,
January 18, 2012 6:43 pm
Israeli hackers fight tit-for-tat war
By Tobias Buck in Jerusalem and Camilla Hall and Tom Gara in Abu Dhabi
Israel’s long-running conflict with the Arab world is drawing in a surprising new set of combatants, after computer hackers from both sides launched an escalating series of cyberattacks aimed at shutting down websites and revealing stolen data.
The stand-off has so far inflicted little real economic damage, but Israeli politicians say they take it seriously all the same.
In Israel, a country that takes great pride in its booming high-tech economy, the successful assault on several high-profile websites has triggered both anger and concern. For the country’s critics in the Arab world, meanwhile, hacking into high-profile Israeli websites has emerged as a new and effective tool to damage, or at least embarrass, their old adversary.
Now into its third week, the cyberstand-off shows no sign of abating. One Israeli hacker, speaking to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper, warned on Wednesday: “We won’t stop hacking into them until they stop hacking into us. This is spreading like fire in a field of thorns. Every self-respecting Israeli hacker is joining us now and is helping with our war effort.”
But Dan Meridor, Israel’s deputy prime minister, called on Israeli hackers to stop the escalation. “Individual initiatives by Israeli hackers to attack Saudi hackers, or hackers from anywhere else for that matter, are ineffective and shouldn’t be done in Israel’s name,” he told Israeli radio on Wednesday.
Hidden behind a cloak of online anonymity, Israeli and Arab hackers have both indulged in bluster and threats as much as in genuine cyberattacks. Their forum of choice is the Pastebin website, which allows users to upload text and information. The site features a bewildering array of claims by hacking groups, with names such as Nightmare, Hannibal or IDF Team.
A typical posting, apparently by a Saudi-based hacker calling himself 0xOmar, reads: “This is the beginning of cyberwar against Israel, you are not safe any more…Let Israel suffer from our attacks.”
The conflict started when 0xOmar published the credit card details of thousands of Israelis on the internet this month. The move prompted a response by an Israeli hacker called Hannibal, who posted personal information, including email and Facebook passwords, of Saudi internet users.
This week, Arab hackers managed to temporarily shut down the websites of several Israeli banks, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al, Israel’s national airline. Israeli hackers responded by attacking the websites of the Abu Dhabi and Saudi stock exchange. Both bourses denied they were the victim of a hacking attack, but there was speculation that the issue of cybersecurity would now gain more attention.
“Electronic security is going to become more of a priority now,” said one Gulf investor. “It will definitely now increase some spending, electronic safeguarding. Some people have missed that.”
Yitzhak Ben-Israel, who last year headed an Israeli government task force on cybersecurity, said the hacking efforts had been fairly unsophisticated.
“What they did was simply overload the communication lines with requests [forcing the sites to shut down temporarily]. This is not a high-level cyberattack.”
Costin Raiu, director of global research and analysis at computer security company Kaspersky Lab, said it was unlikely the Saudi hackers had created their own network of infected computers, known as a botnet, to attack the Israeli sites. “They are probably renting one from other groups, or maybe they have taken over someone else’s,” he said.
Mr Ben-Israel conceded that the wave of hacking attacks showed “how much damage can potentially be done”, but struck a philosophical note on the broader threat posed by hackers and cyberwarriors. “Two thousand years ago we were threatened by swords and infantry, now it is cyber terrorists. Anything that can be used against the state of Israel, will be used against the state of Israel.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012.