How many Palestinians feel more liberated thanks to #OpIsrael, the targeted
cyber-attack launched by the “Anonymous” hacker collective this week? Probably
none. In fact, it is hard to believe any Palestinian solidarity ever existed.
The sad truth is that this “digital flotilla” had nothing to do ending
Palestinians woes. Anonymous, like the IHH, decided to jump on the “bash Israel”
bandwagon to raise awareness and money for themselves.
This was the first
time an organized group launched a coordinated attack against a collection of
public and private Israeli websites.
But, like the infamous Turkish
flotilla to Gaza in 2010, #OpIsrael had all the signs of a public slur campaign
with ulterior motives.
Anonymous used the right rhetoric and timing to
get the media’s attention and force Israeli government offices, companies and
individuals to open the virtual situation rooms. Twitter fans began following,
the news outlets bit, the headlines ran and the stage was set, as in the case of
the flotilla, for the showdown.
Did Anonymous achieve any of their
declared goals? A large number of government and private websites were attacked.
Approximately 60 million attacks were reportedly launched, of which a minuscule
number were successful.
Certain sites were overloaded with data requests
until they crashed, known as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service)
Other smaller and less protected sites were compromised, their
homepages replaced with dark graphics, empathic Palestinian photos, anti-Israel
messages and dramatic music. Ask the Anonymous hackers (if you could) and they
would claim victory.
Yet, these types of attacks are nothing out of the
ordinary. Israeli websites are always under threat from hackers seeking to leak
sensitive information or to bring down “.il” domains and servers. The
significance in the #OpIsrael campaign lies in the increased scale and
concentrated timeframe, not in the capabilities of the hackers or their
As soon as Anonymous tweeted about hacked “.gov.il”
websites, these were back online. Smaller sites took a little longer to revert
to their original state, but this was nothing more than a nuisance, as in the
case of the “Women of the Wall” website. (Gaza-liberating hackers apparently do
not favor gender equality.) Other private websites hacked seem to hardly be
protected or active. If anything, Anonymous brought extra traffic to sites
struggling to attract visitors. In the end no electricity plants crashed. No one
lined up outside their bank to withdraw money in panic. Israelis happily
continued to snap Instagram pictures, share them on Facebook and hit the “like”
Did #OpIsrael help the Palestinians in any way? No, and it was
never meant to. Anonymous set out to raise awareness about a conflict that
people around the world are already aware of if they ever watched TV or visited
a news website.
They did not expose devilish secret protocols as
Wikileaks attempted to do, nor did they cause any lasting damage, as Stuxnet
Their aim was simple: put Anonymous back in the
Branding a campaign with anti- Israel slurs and using footage
from previous military operations in Gaza and the West Bank is extremely simple,
Conveniently, the campaign advertised Anonymous’s own
fundraising efforts, by “tweeting between the lines” about Anonymous’s
activities, associates and sympathizers. AnonNews is one example. Funded by
donations, the anti-corporation news website managed to attract hundreds of
donations, amounting to thousands of dollars, during
Anonymous’s plan actually backfired on the Palestinians and
any future virtual Intifada. Instead of wreaking havoc, hackers provided a
pre-planned scenario and training operation for Israel’s countercyberterrorism
units, high-tech system administrators, ISPs and watchful individuals. They all
took the threat seriously, dealt with it successfully and went home to eat
Despite the minimal damage caused this week, it is imperative to
remember the responsibility of the sensible and literate computer user, and to
take precautions to limit virtual or real harm. ISPs, email providers and system
administrators encourage strong passwords for a reason. Anti-virus software is a
basic necessity. While it is tempting to believe that you have been arbitrarily
selected to receive a prize from a website, or that a friend visiting Bhutan
needs your financial assistance, this is probably not the case.
emoticons are nothing more than Trojan horses, malware and other malicious
Even on trusted social media websites, the information uploaded
is potentially public; no matter what privacy settings have been set. The real
rule of thumb is to simply think before you click.
With more personal
information available than ever before in history, cyberterrorism and
cyberwarfare are a reality not to be taken lightly. Stuxnet, Stars and other
high-end computer viruses proved capable of causing virtual and physical damage
to extremely advanced systems and networks, even destroying them. While
Anonymous hackers seem far from these capabilities, they did demonstrate a
scenario that will likely repeat itself in the future.
hacktivists have time and systems at their disposal, the more we will see such
attacks, probably without warnings.
Had Anonymous members really wanted
to help Palestinians, they might have invested their resources in computer
centers in Gaza and their talents and time fostering digital literacy to
children who need it most. #OpIsrael was another anti-Israel campaign meant not
to improve the Palestinians’ reality, but instead serve the private needs and
wants of the initiating organization. In the meantime, Syrians still die and
Egyptians still protest – but these are less attractive posters to donors and
The author is currently the manager of the Argov Fellows
Program at IDC Herzliya and the director of operations for
http://www.friendasoldier.com, an independent dialogue website.