A Crime against the Machine

For the last several days Israel has been under constant attack. Our civilians have been targeted, our financial institutions have been disrupted and our airlines have been under malicious assault…writes Raffe Gold.

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The ‘invasion’ of Israel has made a headline here and there but nothing like we saw in Operation Cast Lead or the Six Day War. Rather these media stories have taken up mere inches of a newspaper or are relegated to specialty websites. The reason for this lack of media exposure is because the attacks have occurred in cyberspace.

It began with OxOmar. The self-proclaimed ‘Saudi National’ hacked into an Israeli website and stole the credit card details of thousands of Israeli citizens. Thus the first salvo in the new Middle East war was fired. It was entirely unprovoked and OxOmar stated that the ‘Jewish lobby’ was smothering his exploits. Over the course of January strikes by OxOmar and other hackers, including by the so called ‘Anonymous Palestine’ (though there is no evidence to suggest that the group is associated with the official Anonymous organization in any way), have taken down the Israel Festival website, Assuta Hospital, El Al and the Tel Aviv stock exchange. They also managed to take down the left-leaning Haaretz website though later apologized for that particular act of warfare.

Not wishing to be outdone a team of Israeli hackers began to strike at various websites within the Arab world. Calling themselves ‘IDF Team’ the group began to target the Saudi stock exchange, the Iranian Ministry of Health, collect Saudi Credit Card information and bring down the Abu Dhabi stock exchange. The group, speaking to various media outlets, has vowed to avenge attacks against Israeli websites by bringing down the sites of Arabian institutions and planting an Israeli flag in some sort of electronic victory. The majority of the attacks are Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that have, so far, done little damage other than to make the websites inaccessible. It appears to be all fun and games. No one has been physically injured, so perhaps this constant game of cyber one up-man-ship is better than Hamas firing rockets at a million sleeping Israelis.

Yet it is incredibly dangerous to act in such a laissez-faire manner. Yes. OxOmar struck first. He struck at a civilian target and whilst I believe that IDF Team has the best of intentions they are criminals and should be prosecuted. Computer hacking is both a domestic and an international crime. INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization, has an entire division devoted to computer crime. This division assists in international operations at the request of the countries. It would be incredibly simple for Israel to lodge a complaint and request that a case file be opened. For Israel to arrest IDF Team would show that they will not allow rogue citizens, even though they think they’re acting in the best interests of the nation, to take vigilante action. Israel, as a state, must categorically reject these hackers and display its willingness to abide by the law.

Early last year Israel set up a National Cyber Command under the auspices of a retired general. The Cyber Command will be involved in thwarting attempts to disrupt government websites and essential services and liaising with local businesses to ensure that their infrastructure is sufficiently protected. With the creation of our Command Israel hedged its bets that eventually the war for her existence would be played out on the cyber battlefield; their assumptions were correct.

The emergence of this new threat, led by individuals or groups of citizens rather than generals under the flag of a nation-state, shows that Israel must pump more money and resources into this field to ensure that her critical infrastructure is sufficiently protected. It must appeal to international bodies, including the governments of Saudi Arabia and whichever other nations these hackers reside in, to arrest those responsible. Israel can no longer be at the mercy of a team of cyber criminals. The tit-for-tat hacking between Israeli and foreign nationals is a dangerous game that could escalate into something much worse. It is best for all countries involved to tell their police and intelligence agencies to work on arresting those within their borders who are illegally hacking websites. This should not be treated as some kind of Zionistic (or pro-Arab) adventure to prove who is tougher but rather it should be within the same category as all hacking adventures: a serious crime.

 

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