Following the official announcement of war between Israel and the Palestinian military group Hamas, Israeli websites have been facing an onslaught of cyberattacks.
Hacktivists, including some with Russian ties, have aligned themselves with Palestine, defacing and taking down Israeli government websites.
On Monday, the leading Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, reported – “The Jerusalem Post is currently experiencing downtime due to a series of cyberattacks initiated against us since yesterday morning”.
The surge in cyberattacks comes in the wake of the devastating Hamas attack on Israel, which has left hundreds dead and thousands injured, while over 150 Israelis have been taken hostage. Israel officially declared war against Hamas, causing over 500 casualties in retaliation.
What Do the Cyberattacks Mean for Israel?
Will Thomas, a cyber-threat intelligence researcher at the Equinix Threat Analysis Center, took to X to share that Israeli websites targeted by pro-Palestinian hackers so far include government websites, news sites, civil services, telecommunications, energy companies, and financial organizations. At least 15 known hacktivist, ransomware, and cybercriminal groups have announced their active involvement in disruptive cyberattacks against Israel.
Government of Israel, you are to blame for this bloodshed. Back in 2022, you supported the terrorist regime of Ukraine. You betrayed Russia. Today, Killnet officially informs you about it! All Israeli government systems will be subject to our attacks.Killnet, Russian hacktivist group
While the scope of the hacktivist efforts might seem quite widespread, they have limited impact on the actual armed conflict. It isn’t very different from the cyberattacks launched by pro-Ukrainian hacktivists against Russia – such activities have come to be closely associated with armed conflicts.
Killnet reiterated that it will only target the Israeli government, calling for an end to harm against civilian targets.
However, such politically motivated hacking groups are often decentralized, without any affiliation to any government. While their attacks may disrupt websites and services, the impact is very limited compared to nation-state hacking groups.
“But we’re not yet seeing real [nation] state malicious actors”, reported Rob Joyce, the director of cybersecurity at the National Security Agency (NSA).
Lukasz Olejnik, an independent researcher and consultant, confirmed that such hacktivist groups are limited in their ability to conduct large-scale cyberattacks. “The effects would be quite low, and considering all that’s happening — the impact would be limited, or none even. In other words, a distraction”, he added.
Hackers Suspected to Have Russian Links
In an online chat, Will Thomas pointed out that the hacktivism surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict involves a surprising number of international groups. Hackers from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Morocco have been attacking Israeli cyber targets.
Among the most notable hacking groups involved in the cyberattacks are Killnet (known for its high-profile DDoS attacks) and Anonymous Sudan, both of which are suspected to have Russian ties.
Created earlier this year, Anonymous Sudan has already carried out major attacks against the German Foreign Intelligence Service, Microsoft, and X (formerly Twitter).
According to experts, it’s a Russian state-sponsored front group that works under the guise of Sudanese-based hacktivism. Anonymous Sudan is believed to have connections with Killnet, but the group has repeatedly denied such claims.
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