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Operation Israel, also known as #OpIsrael, is an Anonymous hacktivist campaign seeking to protest the Israeli Defense Forces’ Operation Pillar of Defense by taking down Israeli government websites through distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
In early November 2012, the Israel Defense Forces took to Twitter to live-update about the status of the fight in Gaza. On November 14th, IDF killed Ahmed Jabari, the chief of Hamas’ military wing, in an airstrike. Being the highest ranking Hamas official to be killed by the IDF since the 2008 Gaza War, the news of Jabari’s assassination quickly escalated tensions between the two sides.
IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012
On November 15th, Anonymous-affiliated blog Anon Relations claimed that Israel’s government had publicly threatened to cut off Gaza’s internet access and called for an attack on the country’s most important websites in retaliation. The post included a “care package” file in both English and Arabic containing the press release, first aid instructions, a proxy to hide the user’s IP addresses, a technical guide on how to get around an internet access ban and a image file of the Anonymous seal.
On November 15th, a Pastebin file containing more than 650 web addresses defaced as part of the operation was created by Anonymous Grupo. Additionally, another Pastebin file was created to collect useful information for those in Gaza, including links to the care packages, cell phone apps, medical information, livestreams, news links and dial-up internet access numbers, among other resources. The same day, a modified version of the previous day’s communique was posted to YouTube by Gigabytedrop and a Twitter account and Facebook fan page were launched with the designated hashtag for the movement: #OpIsrael.
In the following days, as many as seven hundreds Israeli websites reportedly experienced temporary shutdowns and defacements on the homepage, including the Bank of Jerusalem, the Israeli Defense Ministry and the President’s official website among many others. On the 18th, it was reported that Anonymous members had leaked the personal information of more than 5,000 Israeli officials. However, as of 8:30 PM EST on November 19th, the link leads to a 404 page on the homepage of the Danish financial company Engelhardt Consult. By the 19th, Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz claimed the country had blocked more than 44 million cyber attacks on government websites.
Israel, all your base are belong to us.— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) November 16, 2012
On November 15th, Redditor twolf1 submitted a post titled “Anonymous warns Israel: ’No one cuts internet on our watch” to the /r/worldnews subreddit, which received over 5,300 up votes and 780 comments with the next four days. Many commenters criticized the report linked in the post, arguing that Anonymous was a nebulous entity with no central leadership. The same day, Redditor HouseSpeaker submitted a post titled “Anonymous is on it: Israel threatens to cut Gaza off from the Internet, telecommunications, ‘NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch’” to the /r/anonymous subreddit.
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News Media Coverage
Beginning on November 15th, internet culture blogs and news sites ncluding BetaBeat and WebProNews began covering Anonymous’ operation. Over the next four days, additional coverage of the cyberattack appeared on Breitbart, Cnet, Forbes, the Daily Dot, Vice and Fox News.
On November 19th, 2012, the tech news blog Gizmodo published a post titled “Anonymous is Losing its War Against Israel,” comparing the attacks to “egging someone’s house.” The article dismissed the group’s indiscriminate targetting of any website with an Israeli domain, which ended up taking down mostly small businesses, and the leaking of “Israeli supporter” personal information as largely ineffective. The article also included several screen shots from the hacker group’s IRC channel, arguing that the communications were disjointed and chaotic (shown below).
Mossad Website Targeted
On March 3rd, 2013, the notorious hacktivist AnonGhost revealed in an exclusive interview with The Hackers Post that cyber-attacks against Israeli websites will resume on April 7th as a joint collaboration of various hackers and collectives. Then a few weeks later on March 25th, a collective of several hacking crews including Anonymous, Sector 404 and Red Hack carried out a series of distributed denial of service attacks against the official website of Israel Secret Intelligence Service, better known as Mossad, rendering it offline and inaccessible for several hours before. The news of the hack was quickly announced by @AnonNews:
Meanwhile, Anonymous and the Turkish group Red Hack reportedly leaked personally identifiable information of more than 30,000 Mossad agents, including their names, locations, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, though it remains unclear whether the data had been obtained during the course of the latest attack.
Holocaust Memorial Day Attack
On April 7th, an international coalition of Anonymous-affiliated hackers launched its second wave of massive cyberattacks as planned, this time targeting both Israeli government and private company websites. Coinciding with the Israelis’ observance of the Holocaust Memorial Day, the assault was allegedly carried out in collaboration among dozens of hacking collectives and individual hackers, including:
- Mauritania Attacker (AnonGhost)
- HUrr!c4nE (ajax Team)
- Hitcher (MLA – Muslim Liberation Army)
- SAW-19, X-Line, V!rus No!r (Moroccan Hackers)
- Foxy, MR@T0RJAN (Gaza Hacker Team)
- PLiiiJl (Anonymous Syria)
- ExDeaTH, Jihad (X-BLACKERZ INC)
- DzPhoenix (Devil Zone Team)
- Ouali Bouziad (Algerian Hacker)
- Saber Dz (Algerian Hacker)
- Dr.spam (Moroccan Hacker)
- X-Line (Moroccan Hackers)
- V!rus No!r (Moroccan Hackers)
- Mauritania HaCker Team
- Ajax Team
- Moroccan Hackerz
- Gaza Hacker Team & Gaza Security Team
- Anonymous Syria
- The Hacker Army
- X-BLACKERZ INC
- Devil Zone Team
- Moroccan Hackers
- Algerian Hackers
By early hours of April 7th, dozens of Israeli government websites had been rendered inaccessible, including the Israel Police, the Ministry of Defense, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israel Securities Authority, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Central Bureau of Statistics. Throughout the day, Hackers News Bulletin compiled a list of major Israeli websites that were defaced or taken down. At 5:52 p.m. (ET), @Op_Israel estimated that the operation inflicted damage of more than $3 billion USD.
#Anonymous partial damage report, 100k+ websites, 40k Facebook pages, 5k twitter & 30k Israeli bank acc got hacked ~ $3-plus billion damage— #OpIsrael (@Op_Israel) April 7, 2013
Infosecurity Magazine – Anonymous claims Mossad hack; experts not convinced