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Digital Warfare: Israel bombarded with cyberattacks, Russia-linked outfits take credit

Israel is facing a multipronged attack by a slew of different players. After Hamas attacked and infiltrated Israel through Gaza, several hacking groups have launched cyberattacks on Israel, targeting their public infrastructure such as power grids, defense systems, government-owned websites, and media outlets, as stated by Bloomberg.

These attacks are being carried out by several hacking groups, including those with suspected ties to Russia, who have forged alliances with the Palestinian military group Hamas.

One of these groups, Killnet, which claims to consist of patriotic Russian volunteer hackers, announced on Sunday its intent to target all Israeli government systems using distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

This cyberattack method inundates websites with traffic, effectively taking them offline. Killnet attributed its actions to Israel, accusing the nation of supporting Ukraine and NATO. The group asserted that it successfully brought down an Israeli government website and the website of the security agency Shin Bet for a period on Sunday.

However, independent verification of the group’s claims is currently pending. Nevertheless, both websites did experience downtime on Sunday, as reported by the website monitoring service,

Simultaneously, Anonymous Sudan, a hacking group suspected of having ties to Russia, declared its support for the “Palestinian resistance” and took credit for briefly turning off the Jerusalem Post’s website on Monday morning. The newspaper confirmed it had been subjected to multiple cyberattacks but restored its website.

Cybersecurity experts suggest that these actions by Russian hacktivists appear to be opportunistic moves, capitalizing on the ongoing conflict to make headlines and potentially profit from DDoS attacks.

These incidents are indicative of Russia aligning itself with Hamas against Israel, according to Mattias Wåhlén, a threat intelligence expert at cybersecurity firm Truesec AB.

Numerous other self-proclaimed hacktivist groups have also claimed responsibility for launching attacks on Israeli infrastructure, targeting websites associated with power plants and missile alert systems. However, many of these claims remain unverified.

In a related development, cybersecurity firm Group IB reported that a hacker group known as AnonGhost compromised a mobile phone application for issuing missile alerts to Israelis during conflicts. The hackers exploited a vulnerability in the app to insert fake notifications containing messages like “death to Israel” and “the nuclear bomb is coming,” along with a swastika symbol. The app has since been removed from Google’s Play Store, where it was previously downloaded over 1 million times. The developers of the app have not issued a comment on the matter.

In a statement posted on Telegram, AnonGhost affirmed its commitment to taking action against Israel. While Israel has been a frequent target of cyberattacks, it remains uncertain whether Iranian hacking groups are involved in the current conflict.

Pro-Israel groups have also retaliated by launching cyberattacks against Palestinian organizations. One group, identifying itself as the Indian Cyber Force, claimed to have disrupted the websites of the Palestinian National Bank and Hamas on Sunday. Both websites were still inaccessible on Monday, and the bank did not provide a comment on the situation.

Gil Messing, chief of staff for Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., noted that the recent cyberattacks have had minimal impact thus far. However, he emphasized that the situation could change in the future.

Rob Joyce, director of cybersecurity at the National Security Agency, stated that there hasn’t been a significant cyber component to the conflict yet. Instead, the agency has observed small-scale denial-of-service attacks and minor web defacements.

He anticipates that external parties may become more involved in amplifying Hamas’s messaging. Joyce highlighted that sophistication may not be a prerequisite for impact in such situations.

The evolving cyber landscape in the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict suggests that both state-sponsored and hacktivist groups are actively engaging in cyber operations, with the potential for further escalation.

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