The world may be seeing the first glimpse of cyberterrorism as the rhetoric around cyber-attacks between Arab hackers and Israeli hackers heats up. Yet although the language on both sides is strong, the details around a recent hacking incident are murky enough that they raise a whole new set of questions.
The incident started on Jan. 3 when a hacker, 0xOmar, announced the release of credit card data from 400,000 Israelis. The post, made to pastebin.com, said 6,000 of the credit cards were still working.
Several attacks have followed, moving from releasing credit card data, to shutting down websites of the Israeli and Saudi stock exchanges, and attacking other sectors. Some Israeli hackers have started fighting back, and are launching similar attacks against Arab users. 0xOmar claimed to be part of a hacker group called Group-XP, describing itself as the “largest Wahhabi hacker group of Saudi Arabia—the Saudi Arabia hackers of Anonymous hacking movement.” Yet a user from Anonymous Operations in Iran, Arash, said via email that 0xOmar’s claim of being part of Anonymous is untrue.
“How can you be from an extremist religious group and also part of Anonymous movement fighting for freedom of ideas?” Arash said.
The actions of Group-XP were also never announced through an official channel of Anonymous Operations. A group of users in the Anonymous chat room confirmed they had never heard of an operation through Anonymous related to the actions of 0xOmar or Group-XP.
Whether Group-XP is government backed, or merely an independent group of extremists, using Anonymous Operations as a cover would be extremely easy, since the group functions as an online chat room where hackers can announce operations and anyone can join in.
Another user of Anonymous told The Epoch Times via online chat that due to the loose structure of the organization, “The fact is, if he claims he is part of anonymous, he is.”
Anonymous Operations and hacker group TeaMp0isoN did announce attacks against Israeli websites in late December, under an operation called OpFreePalestine. The attacks, however, have targeted Israeli websites like the Israeli Institute of Technology Cancer Research, and not credit cards or the financial sector.
A search through the documents and announcements of OpFreePalestine posted to pastebin.com—which is typically used by hackers to announce successful hacks or new operations—yielded no connections between attacks under their operation and 0xOmar and Group-XP.
The motives of 0xOmar are uncertain. From Jan. 5 to Jan. 7, the hacker was posting messages to pastebin.com telling users they would be sent a new list of hacked credit cards if they visited websites and clicked their ads to generate revenue.
A post from Jan. 7 directed users to a website and informed them, “after you will buy 2 Thing and send me and email to OxOmar@hotmail.com I will send you new credit card accounts.” Israeli news website ynetnews.com stated on Jan. 6 that Amir Phadida, an Israeli student, claimed he had uncovered the identity of 0xOmar, and pointed to a 19-year-old living in Mexico, who works at a cafe.
0xOmar responded to the news the same day, stating in a pastebin.com post “You are really weak. I suggest you to remove innocent person details that appeared on that page.” 0xOmar then stated, “I challenge the world to find me, let’s the game [sic] begin.” Close to a week later, however, another hacker backtracked the websites that were posted earlier by 0xOmar, and traced it to a 19-year-old computer science student in Mexico, who was born in the United Arab Emirates.
The post also allegedly revealed identities of other members of Group-XP, stating three other known members are based in Saudi Arabia, and one in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Israel stated Jan. 7 that online credit card theft would be treated as terrorism. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon stated the cyber-attacks are “a breach of sovereignty comparable to a terrorist operation, and must be treated as such,” Reuters reported.
“Israel has active capabilities for striking at those who are trying to harm it, and no agency or hacker will be immune from retaliatory action,” he said.
On Jan. 13, Israel also announced the formation of a Cyber Warfare Administration that will coordinate efforts of the Israeli defense industry and security agencies to deal with cyberwarfare, Israel National News reported.
This sparked something much larger, however, and on Jan. 16, terrorist group Hamas called for more cyber-attacks against Israel.
Hamas referred to hacking as “a new field of resistance,” and stated, “Penetrating Israeli websites means opening a new field of resistance and the beginning of an electronic war against Israeli occupation,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement emailed to reporters in Gaza, Bloomberg reported.