Neohapsis is currently accepting applications for employment. For more information, please visit our website www.neohapsis.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
[ISN] Pings and E-Arrows Fly in Mideast Cyber-War
From: William Knowles (wkC4I.ORG)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 17:40:16 CDT
By Lee Hockstader
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, October 27, 2000; Page A01
JERUSALEM, Oct. 26 The Web site of Hezbollah, the militantly
anti-Zionist Islamic guerrilla movement, has a surprising new look.
Click on the Hezbollah home page and you are greeted by the Israeli
flag, Hebrew text and a slightly tinny piano recording of "Hatikva,"
the Israeli national anthem.
A spearhead force of Israeli hackers, augmented by thousands of
teenage keyboard warriors, launched their Internet assault on
Hezbollah and other Arab world Web sites earlier this month as
violence in the region spun out of control.
This week the Arabs struck back with a fury, apparently led by
pro-Palestinian cyber-soldiers in the United States. In a sustained,
coordinated counterattack, Web sites of the Israeli army, Foreign
Ministry, prime minister and parliament, among others, have been
staggered by a barrage of hundreds of thousands--possibly millions--of
hostile electronic signals.
"We checked it and for what we found, this is the first full-scale war
in cyberspace," said Gilad Rabinovich, CEO of NetVision, Israel's
largest Internet provider. "It's costing a lot of money and human
resources. . . . Instead of being billable, our technical experts are
busy protecting the Web sites."
The cyber-war between Arabs and Jews that peaked this week has raged
parallel to the fighting on the ground, and while it is not deadly, it
appears to involve at least as many people and all the same passions.
What distinguishes this cyber-conflict from past ones, such as during
last year's Kosovo war, is that it is not exclusively, or even mainly,
a cat-and-mouse game of highly specialized hackers attempting to play
havoc with one another's sites.
Thousands of Israeli and Arab youngsters apparently have also joined
in the contest, sending the other side nasty, racist and occasionally
pornographic e-mails and, within their own camps, circulating Web site
addresses with simple instructions for how to ping, zap and crash the
enemy's electronic fortresses.
As one of the most computer-literate societies in the world, Israel
has an immense advantage. There are about 1.1 million Internet hookups
in the Jewish state, or more than in all 22 Arab countries combined.
But Israel's phenomenal connectedness also means it offers more
targets and is vastly more vulnerable to attack. And Arabs are finding
ways to strike back.
For half of Wednesday and virtually all day today, the Israeli Foreign
Ministry site, an encyclopedic and popular database, has been
inaccessible as computer technicians work to build stronger firewalls
to protect it. Also today, following three straight days of concerted
attacks, the Israeli army announced it had hired AT&T as a backup
Internet provider in case the electronic firestorm makes access
impossible through NetVision, its usual server.
"It's a brain war because [of] all the time we need to analyze the
ways our attackers tried to penetrate the site," Rabinovich said.
"After we learn what they've done, we have to build the right shields
to protect [against] it."
Even Israel's right-wing Likud Party has come under a low-tech attack.
Starting around dawn this morning its Web site was bombarded by
several thousand e-mails with such messages as "Death to the Jews,"
"Hell is waiting for you" and obscenities.
Israel, whose extraordinary security-mindedness extends to the
Internet, appears so far to have prevented the attackers from
penetrating and meddling with any of its sites. Although Internet
access in Israel has at times slowed to a crawl, and several sites
have been forced to suspend operations to fortify themselves, none
seems to have been breached by invaders.
Israeli hackers, however, seem to have had some success in breaking
and entering the sites of their enemies, notably Hezbollah.
The heavy-duty Israeli cyber-attacks on Hezbollah apparently began
about three weeks ago after the Lebanese Shiite guerrillas seized
three Israeli soldiers on patrol along the border with Lebanon, and
held them for ransom.
Israelis began circulating among themselves electronic chain letters
and other messages containing instructions for how to strike back
against Hezbollah, as well as pro-Palestinian Web sites and portals
around the Arab world. Many Israelis say they received a half-dozen or
more such e-mails.
Within days, Hezbollah's site was flooded by millions of "pings"--the
low-tech cyber-equivalent of knocks on the door. It crashed. Hezbollah
then tried reviving its site under slightly different spellings, but
they too were attacked in turn. One of them, www.hizballa.org, was
penetrated, Hebraized and adorned with the Israeli flag and a galaxy
of Stars of David.
The chief means that Israelis use to attack Hezbollah and other Arab
Internet targets seem to be Web sites that make it astonishingly easy
for even novice surfers to join in the action.
One address offers surfers a menu of targets to attack, including the
sites of Hezbollah, the Palestinian National Authority, the
Palestinian militant group Hamas and a half-dozen others.
"Come and help us stop their pan-Arabic campaign of incitement," the
site says in Hebrew. "Our purpose is not to allow the cruel terror
organizations to continue with their sites spreading terror, articles
and sick pictures throughout the Internet."
The site then invites users to click on the targets they would like to
disable, and offers a set of simple instructions for executing the
assault. The whole process takes no more than a minute or two, and can
generate multiple and high-speed attacks.
"It's a very simple yet effective idea based on having people log on,
and the Web site will automatically do the attacking for them," Ali
Ayoub, the Hezbollah site webmaster, told the Daily Star, an
English-language daily in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. "Every time
a user chooses one of nine sites listed on the Web site, a file is
activated to target the site every second."
Ayoub's comments, published Tuesday, appear to have contributed to the
counterattack by Arab Internet users. Internet chat rooms popular
among Arabs were used to circulate information on how to attack
The Daily Star quoted an unnamed Arab "Internet programmer" as saying
that some Israeli sites not only had been knocked out of action but
also badly damaged, their data deleted.
Israeli Internet sources denied that, but acknowledged that a few of
the attacks had been highly sophisticated.
On both sides of the Internet shootout, Web site officials denounce
the conflict. Some Israelis say it is the work of bored teenagers
spoiling for an antiseptic fight.
"Sometimes it's a 14-year-old guy who calls himself the Red Dragon,"
said Gadi Shimshon, editor of an Internet portal in Tel Aviv called
Nana. "These are kids' games. Every kid nowadays has an Internet
connection, and they can do it. . . . Hormones are awful at this age."
Others contend the attacks in cyberspace are more pernicious, and
amount to an assault on free expression itself.
"Destroying an innocent site here or there is crude vandalism, it is
not an act of war," said Ori Noy, director of the information division
of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "Shutting down a site is like burning
books. And in another era this was very symbolic. We are talking about
the Nazi era."
One Israeli lawmaker, former science minister Michael Eitan of the
hard-line Likud Party, said he favored international agreements and
legislation criminalizing attacks on Web sites, whether by Israelis or
"I'd like to see that real enemies who want to kill each other--that
they still should respect freedom of press, the rights of reporters,
of safe transport for the Red Cross and the injured, and also for the
Internet, which should be protected by agreement," he said.
"Even sides in a state of war shouldn't bring the war to the Internet
because the Internet is something international. It was not
established for war but as an arena to exchange views and make
"Communications without intelligence is noise; Intelligence
without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
C4I.org - Computer Security, & Intelligence - http://www.c4i.org
ISN is hosted by SecurityFocus.com
To unsubscribe email LISTSERVSecurityFocus.com with a message body of