Anti-Israel cyber attacks expected during Passover

Counterterrorism bureau gives Sinai "very high concrete threat".

Islamic State holds a parade in Raqqa in June, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Islamic State holds a parade in Raqqa in June, 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel can expect to get hit with a cyber operation over the upcoming Passover holiday, based on a number of social-media indicators, according to a new report obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Also, the Sinai was given the highest warning to avoid travel – level one of four – leading into the Passover and summer travel seasons, “even graver” than in the past, said Prime Minister’s Office Counterterrorism Bureau chief Eitan Ben-David at a special media briefing.
“The threat has grown, including to Israelis in the coming period and is the gravest level of threat. Attacks on the Egyptian military, on Coptic Christians... ISIS rockets fired at Eilat and videos from ISIS against Israelis show the high motivation and power of terror groups there,” to attack Israelis, said Ben-David. “We don’t expect them [ISIS] to respect redlines.”
“Op-Israel” is the name given to “a campaign of cyber attacks carried out by hackers identified with the international anarchic group ‘Anonymous’ and with pro-Palestinian hacker groups against Israeli Internet sites with the goal ‘to disconnect Israel from the cyber world,’” said a report by the Cyber Desk of the International Institute for Counter- Terrorism at IDC Herzliya.
The groups identified include: “Anonymous,” an “unorganized, decentralized, virtual community composed of hackers who come together... to carry out joint offensive operations; “AnonGhost,” an international network associated with pro-Palestinian hackers; and “Red Cult,” a group of hackers associated with the Anonymous community that mainly operates against ISIS.”
The report noted that on February 25 three Facebook accounts – Anonymous Palestine, AnonGhost Syrie, and Palestine AnonGhost – created a joint event titled “AnonGhostOpIsrael,” to take place between April 7 through April 18.
Ninety-eight visitors confirmed their attendance to the online event and 118 others marked that they were interested.
Since then, two other Facebook pages were created for the purposes of coordinating cyber attacks against Israel during the same period, garnering 172 additional visitors or persons interested.
ISIS video threatens Israel in January 2016
Similar posts and groups have been formed for cyber attacks on Israel on YouTube, Twitter and Telegram Messenger, with one of the YouTube users, Maj Houl, having 12,765 subscribers.
Further, the “Minion Ghost” Twitter account on March 4 posted that its owner had “managed to infect with viruses the website of the Bank of Israel. In another post, the same account owner offered to send another user details on the Perl and Python programming languages for the purpose of writing an attack program for the upcoming campaign. These languages are considered practical to use and most effective in programming speed,” noted the report.
On Telegram, members of Minion Ghost discussed methods of cyber attack against an Indonesian website, including “CMD, Low Orbit Ion Cannon and Maltego” (a tool for gathering intelligence rather than for a direct attack), about which the report said “It can be assumed that these attack tools will be used by hackers in the framework of the Op-Israel 2017.”
The groups targeting Israel have listed 37 government and critical infrastructure websites that were attacked in cyber campaigns in previous years, with the first Op-Israel campaign carried out during Operation “Pillar of Defense” on April 7, 2013.
In that attack, several government ministries and 19,000 Israeli Facebook pages were hacked, and Israeli credit card details and email addresses were leaked.
Op-Israel campaigns have used a variety of attacks, including “crashing” websites to prevent them from providing services, hacking databases and leaking information.
While Sinai has the highest level one travel warning, other countries also have high warning levels – with Turkey at level two (though no special heightened warning for merely stopping over in Turkey’s airport) and Jordan and Egypt at level three.
Level one means “a very high concrete threat” with advice to avoid any travel to a destination and leave immediately.
Level two means “a high concrete threat” with advice to avoid travel to a destination and leave as early as possible.
Level three means “a basic-level concrete threat” with advice to avoid travel to a destination and level four is “a continuing potential threat” with advice to delay travel which is not essential.
Ben-David said that most of the increased threat was presented by ISIS-affiliated groups and added that “ISIS is losing ground in Iraq and Syria, which is causing many runaways to places where it is easier to act.”
He said there is a big rise recently of ISIS-related terrorist attacks in Asia, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, as well as in North Africa in “places where there is less security control.”
He emphasized that the threat was not unique to Israelis and that ISIS was in an increased terrorist mode for targeting Christians and others as well.
Museums, market places, sporting events, airports, train stations, synagogues and mosques, big events and certain central hotels, especially in Africa, could all be primary targets for terrorists to inflict maximum mass casualties.
Ben-David said Israel was disregarding threats from Iran, Hezbollah or others, but that the increased threat picture stemmed mainly from ISIS-related groups.
He would not say if the recent killing of a major Hamas leader in Gaza had impacted the threat outlook, with Hamas threatening retaliation against Israel, but said the terrorist group remains a continued threat.
The briefing also included information on threats against countries in Europe and elsewhere. Its purpose was not to stop Israelis from holiday travel, but to caution about specific areas, heighten awareness and provide information to foreign governments in order to better prepare for potential threats against Israeli visitors.