Israeli Websites Hit Widely in Cyber Attack, Extent of Damage Unknown

Hackers affiliated with the Anonymous group vowed to wipe Israel 'off the map of the Internet'; internet providers expect users to have difficulty accessing web, but most affected sites appear to have emerged largely unscathed.

Israeli websites were disrupted on a wide-scale by noon on Sunday, the day that hackers affiliated with the Anonymous group vowed to protest Israeli policies in Gaza and the West Bank by wiping Israel "off the map of the Internet," but the damage appeared minimal.

Some small websites were shut down in the attack, and the few major sites that were hit were affected only briefly. Meanwhile, Israel's Internet service providers have said they expect locals to experience difficulty accessing Israeli websites Sunday.

The hackers behind the so-called "Operation Israel" on Sunday released a list of email addresses and credit card numbers they said had been lifted from the online catalog of Israel Military, a privately owned business that sells military surplus. Israel Military said the information made public did not come from its site.

The Israel Police website was one target of the cyber attack, which began a day before the threatened large-scale virtual invasion, but the site had difficulties loading for only a short time before going back to normal.

Hackers reported Saturday night that they had shut down several government sites, including those of the Prime Minister's Office, the Israel Securities Authority, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Central Bureau of Statistics, but the government denies the claim. Those sites – as well as defense-related ones reported down, such as the Defense Ministry, the Mossad and Israel Military Industries – were operating normally Sunday, so if they were hacked, any damage appears to have been fleeting.

A source at the Defense Ministry on Sunday confirmed that its site had been hacked for several minutes in the early morning hours, but its service has since been restored. Additional attempts to hack the site have failed.

In addition, some of the sites the hackers said they brought down are accessed through outdated links.

A message from a Twitter account linked to Anonymous said Israel Defense Forces troops were arresting suspected hackers, a report the IDF spokesman also denied.

Computer security experts said they expected most of the problems to be distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks, in which a flood of incoming messages forces a targeted website to shut down and deny service to legitimate users, though they said hackers could also release private details like credit-card information or SQL injection, in which the attacker adds code to a Web form to access online resources or make changes to data.

Some 19,000 Israeli Facebook accounts were said to have been hacked Saturday, but no list was immediately released.

The virtual campaign is meant to protest Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

"You have not stopped your endless human rights violations," the Anonymous-affiliated organizers said in a post addressed to Israel's government. "You have not stopped illegal settlements. You have not respected the cease-fire [ending Operation Pillar of Defense in November]. You have shown that you do not respect international law."

Meanwhile, Israeli hackers launched a counterattack. One of the targets was OpIsrael.com, the website used by the organizers of the virtual offensive. Israelis posted pro-Israel content on the site, along with audio of the country's national anthem. But some of the sites listed by Israeli hackers as "Islamic" were actually Chinese.

Bloomberg