Code - AP - January 2012
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Ofer Vaknin
Gil Shwed. Photo by Ofer Vaknin

A recent string of cyber attacks against Israeli credit card companies, banks, and government websites was aided by thousands of Israeli computers operated by remote assailants, a top Israeli software security expert on Tuesday.

Hackers shut down both the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) and El Al’s respective websites on Monday, one day after a hacker network threatened to carry out attacks on both sites.

The network, which goes by the name “nightmare group,” was able to cause severe problems for both sites. By 10 A.M., TASE's website was only partially functioning, while El Al’s website did not function at all.

Following the attack, Israeli Bank ordered to block IP addresses from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Algeria, fearing hackers could penetrate databases of Israeli banks. Even before Israel Bank gave the order, Discount bank and Bank Leumi blocked international access altogether.

The hack comes in the wake of a series of cyber attacks over the past two weeks, and only a day after Hamas called for harsher hacking attempts against Israeli websites.

Speaking on the subject on Tuesday, Gil Shwed, the founder and leader of top computer security firm Check Point Software Technologies said that "when we're looking at the attack yesterday, this isn't a strike by one computer in Saudi Arabia, it's thousands of computers around the world."

"A considerable part of the computers that attacked us originated in Israel. That's precisely what a bot is. Unlike traditional viruses, these bots do a good job of hiding themselves, which is why we developed the anti-bot," Shwed said.

Concerning the magnitude of Monday's hack, the Check Point chief said that the attacks involved thousands, maybe tens of thousands, and almost half of which are in Israel. They're operated by someone abroad, who cannot recognize. "

"These recent attacks have been sophisticated. While the assailant was probably not Israeli, he did use Israeli computers. It's similar to what happened last year with Sony. There were some significant attacks on Sony, with a 'small squad' stealing information off the side," Shwed said, referring to the hacking of PSN (the Sony PlayStation website ) led to the theft of 77 million credit cards.

Shwed said that hak It was a combination of several kinds of attacks, most of which can be stopped and were stopped."

"From what I know, there wasn't much cooperation between these sources. If the attack was similar, then it could be that one group that spent time in figuring a way in can then give that information to another group," he added.

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