The threatened cyber attack, planned to fall just a week before Holocaust Remembrance Day (known as Yom HaShoah in Israel) on April 16, saw pro-Palestinian hackers target dozens of Israeli websites, including politicians’ personal websites, NGOs and musicians, for what the cell called Israel’s “crimes in the Palestinian territories”.
The Geological Survey of Israel, the Israeli Urological Association and the Israel Laboratory Accreditation Authority [ISRAC] were all briefly targeted, while a number of Israeli politicians were hit by the group’s attack, including the personal website of Zionist Union candidate Yossi Yonah.
However, no functioning government websites were harmed or breached by the attack. The Israeli economy ministry website was targeted but analysts said the web page taken down by the group was an old version no longer in use.
The group replaced web pages with photos of militants holding an ISIS flag and a holy site for Muslims in Jerusalem. Numerous hacked sites carried a message saying they had been breached “by AnonGhost”.
“We are always here to punish you! Because we are the voice of Palestine and we will not remain silent! We are the sound of the forgotten people, the freedom fighter in the cyberworld and our main target is Zionisme [sic] and israhell,” the message left on the hacked websites read.
Benjamin T. Decker, senior intelligence analyst at Tel Aviv-based geopolitical risk consultancy the Levantine Group, says that this cyber attack represents the least effective of the last four years of attacks as Israeli authorities grow increasingly capable of defending against these cyber attacks.
“The ‘electronic Holocaust’ has not had the grandiose impact of erasing Israel from the internet,” he says. “It’s important to note that this is being led exclusively by the Middle Eastern contingent of Anonymous, rather than the entirety of the organisation.”
“For most of these claimed hacks, the websites were back online within 10 to 15 minutes,” he adds. “I would say this had significantly less impact than last year’s and going back farther, this is probably the most miniscule of the annual OpIsraels that there have been.”
According to Israel’s Ynet News, most cyber attacks against Israeli websites are denial of service (DOS) attacks, where a website’s servers are overloaded with requests for access so it runs slowly or is forced offline.
The initial video threat, published last month, shows a masked figure in a suit and tie delivering a prepared statement, warning that the group will eradicate Israel from cyberspace “for… crimes in the Palestinian territories”.
“We will erase you from cyberspace in our electronic Holocaust,” says the video’s masked figure. “As we did many times, we will take down your servers, government websites, Israeli military websites, and Israeli institutions.”
Last year, during the Gaza conflict, the ‘hacktivist’ group pledged that the #OpSaveGaza campaign against Israel would “expose their terrorist activity to the world”, referring to Israel as ‘Israhell’.
In last summer’s 50-day conflict, over 2,100 Palestinians—at least 1,585 civilians of which 530 were children—were killed, according to UN and Palestinian accounts, and 72 Israelis—all but five soldiers—were killed, according to Israeli accounts.