Israeli businesses the target of spate of cyber attack

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At least five Israeli companies, including the Tel Aviv stock exchange and the national airline, were hit with a denial of service attack on Monday.

Israel was cyber-attacked Monday.

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A hacker claiming to be from Saudi Arabia brought down several high-profile websites, including the sites of the Tel Aviv stock exchange, Israel’s national airline El Al and three Israeli banks.

The immediate damage was limited through what is known as denial of service attacks.. Stock trading was not affected and neither was air travel. In essence, the incident adds up to politically-inspired acts of digital vandalism.

“These are not particularly sophisticated attacks,” said Benji Portnoy, an information security specialist with cyber security company Symantec. “They’re actually the kind of attacks that can be done pretty easily. No actual damage to the websites that were hacked.”

Even so, Israeli IT experts said on Monday there is reason to worry.

In the past couple of weeks, Israel has been the target in a series of highly publicized cyber attacks carried out by people claiming to be pro-Palestinian activists. At least one – an apparent Saudi hacker going by the name of OxOmar – published credit card information for thousands of Israelis online.

Monday morning, OxOmar reportedly told Israeli news organizations he was part of an anti-Israel hacker network that planned to bring down the websites of the stock exchange and El Al.

Yaakov Laapin, who writes about cyber crime for the Jerusalem Post, said it’s impossible to verify the identity of OxOmar. But the hacker – and others like him – does seem to be having some success.

“We’ve seen examples of these kinds of networks rising up before in this loosely defined Anonymous hacking network,” Laapin said. “So nothing that’s taking place now is new. The only development here that’s new is that it’s being directed in a semi-organized way against Israel.”

Laapin said Israel’s security-obsessed government agencies are advanced in terms of cyber security. But the private sector, he said, has some catching up to do. In the meantime, Laapin said it’s likely this hacker war will continue to escalate. He said he’s been in touch with a number of Israeli hackers, who are planning retaliation.

“They say that they plan on publishing credit cards that were hacked from Saudi websites, Saudi shopping websites and release information about how to break into bank accounts,” Laapin said. “And they’re going to do a tit-for-tat campaign. Every time that Israel’s attacked, they say they’re going tor respond in kind.”

For its part, the Islamist group Hamas which controls the Gaza strip and refuses to recognize Israel, has welcomed the recent spate of cyber attacks against the Jewish state. Hamas is calling on Arab youth to join the online campaign against Israel.

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