Israeli businesses, government brace for annual Anonymous cyber-attacks

Past attempts have targeted the sites of Yad Vashem, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Israel Defense Forces website, with limited success.

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April 7, 2016 06:03
2 minute read.
Cyber hackers [illustrative]

Cyber hackers [illustrative]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel’s government and businesses are prepared for the annual onslaught of cyber attacks by online hacktivist group Anonymous, which has been targeting the Jewish state since 2011.

But while the group has succeeded in defacing some high-profile websites in the past, experts say there is little reason to think the attacks will be successful in more meaningful ways.

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“The most important thing is that we don’t have to panic. It’s mainly trying to inflict psychological damage,” said Rami Efrati, founder and president of Firmitas, and former head of civilian sector division of the National Cyber Bureaus in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Israel is attacked every day. It’s one of the most attacked countries in the world,” he continued, before adding, “But we take every attack seriously.”

Nir Giller, CTO and co-founder CyberX, a company that specializes in securing industrial networks and critical infrastructure, sounded a similar note.

“As security experts, we think you should never take any threats to attack companies, let alone critical infrastructure, lightly,” he said, while noting in the same breath that “Israel as a country has a very high awareness for cyber security, and Israel is definitely one of the leading countries in this domain.”

On Thursday, both will be participating in Cyber (K)night, a Jerusalem hackathon addressing cyber defense of critical infrastructure. Anonymous has typically opted for “defacement” attacks, in which it hacks into a website and replaces it with an image or message of its own, or Denial of Service attacks, which overwhelm a website to make it inaccessible.

While it is always possible that members of the group have something more severe up their sleeves, experts seem to view the group’s aims more as propaganda to generate attention than anything else.

“You should be prepared for any scenario, not only when the attackers are declaring that they’re about to try and declare mayhem,” Giller said.

Anonymous is not a single entity, and as such has some strange contradictions.

For example, one Anonymous video that surfaced after the Paris shootings in November decried ISIS, the group responsible for the attack, as “scum” and “vermin.”

Another group claiming to be part of Anonymous, AnonGhost, has openly supported ISIS. It is among those that is expected to participate in attacks against Israeli sites on Thursday.

Last years, the hackers claimed that they managed to temporarily shut down the official Knesset website as well as the sites for the Israeli court system, yet the pages for these institutions continued to function normally.

Past attempts have also targeted the sites of Yad Vashem, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Israel Defense Forces website, with limited success.

To avoid risks of being hacked, INSS researcher Gabi Siboni recommend that people ensure their software is up to date on all their devices, regularly change passwords and ensure they involve both capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and be wary of suspicious emails.

If someone’s business or webpage is attacked, they should call Israel’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) at (03) 745-0801 or email team@ cert.gov.il.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.


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