With coronavirus, annexation and a new gov't, don't fret the small stuff

So what we don’t need to do is pile on concerns unnecessarily. Worry about what is real, not about what isn’t.

People walking on the beach in Tel Aviv during Independence Day  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
People walking on the beach in Tel Aviv during Independence Day
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
As a nation, we love to fret.
And, unfortunately, there is usually what to fret about. We can fret about rockets from Gaza, missiles from Hezbollah, and nukes in the hands of the Iranians. And that is just at the regional level.
Globally we can worry about how Europe will react if we extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, what relations will look like with the US if Joe Biden becomes president, and what will be the fallout if Washington pushes us to scale down ties with China.
Locally, too, there is no dearth of concerns: Is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu going to turn the public against the legal establishment, is the legal establishment out to get Netanyahu, what will be with all the unemployed.
And that is all before factoring in the coronavirus, and everyone’s own personal package of worries (the kids, the spouse, the job).
So what we don’t need to do is pile on concerns unnecessarily. Worry about what is real, not about what isn’t. There is a time to worry, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, and a time to refrain from worrying. Or, more precisely, there are things to worry about, and there are things that are not worry-worthy. And those things we should keep in proportion.
For example, Thursday morning’s hacking of hundreds of Israeli websites by a group called Hackers Of Savior, who openly call for Israel’s destruction.
Granted, its unpleasant to turn on your computer, surf to the Jerusalem Foundation website, and instead of finding a homepage with a friendly table of contents, there is a video of Tel Aviv and Haifa going up in smoke over a subtitle that reads: “The countdown of Israel destruction has begun since a long time ago.” The genocidal message is more than unpleasant; it’s very unpleasant.
But this is not the third shot fired in a quickly escalating cyber war that will knock out this country’s vital infrastructure.
This type of hacking, known as defacing, is relatively harmless. It’s the equivalent of antisemitic graffiti on the web. The hackers don’t get into your computer, they don’t steal information, they don’t wipe out data. They just put hateful content on websites that can be taken down relatively simply with no after effect. True, there is a sense of having been invaded, an intrusion effect, but the real damage – in terms of money cost to businesses while their websites are out of commission for a short while – is small.
Yet, when the websites were hacked on Thursday morning, some media outlets in the country rushed to automatically link it to the Iranians. For who else but the Iranians would love to paralyze Israel’s websites two days after a Washington Post report claimed that Israel wreaked cyber havoc on an Iranian port situated on the Strait of Hormuz? That attack was reportedly in response to an unsuccessful Iranian cyber sabotage attack on water and sewage infrastructure in Israel in mid April.
”The cyber war between Israel and Iran is heating up.” read a report in Calcalist. “Tens of thousands of mostly unsecured Israeli websites were reportedly attacked by Iran-based hackers on Thursday morning, disabling the sites and replacing them with the threatening message.’
If this would have been the Iranians reacting to the cyber attack on their port, then – as nasty as the message might have been – one justifiably could have even thought, “Really, this is all they have? Chaos was created at one of their vital ports, and all they could do in cyber response was send a hateful message in bad Hebrew and bad English?”
The cyber attack on the Shahid Rajaee Port terminal in Bandar Abbas was no mere cyber graffiti. That was an artful work of cyber warfare that obviously took months to plan and dozens of people equipped with excellent intelligence and using sophisticated tools to carry out.
But, as it turns out, Thursday’s hacking didn’t come from Iran, rather amateur hackers using unsophisticated methods from Turkey, North Africa and Gaza to send Israelis an ugly message on Jerusalem Day, a favorite day – according to the experts – for this kind of activity.
This is not meant in any way to downplay the seriousness of hacking or the cyber threat. Sophisticated hackers – like those who targeted the Iranian port on May 9 – can create chaos to a country’s infrastructure.
But Thursday’s attack was not the work of serious hackers, and the result was little more than a temporary nuisance. Better defenses need to be developed to protect against even that, but – at the same time – we shouldn’t make more of it than it is. There’s already enough real stuff to worry about.