Hacktivist group Anonymous launched #OpIsrael on April 7. Image Credit: Supplied

 Dubai: The hacktivist group Anonymous launched a massive cyber assault on Israel on Sunday in what they called “the largest internet battle in the history of mankind”.

While it is not the first time the hacktivist collective has launched #OpIsrael, it seems to be the largest operation of this scale so far. Organisers said the attacks were revenge over Israel’s “unfair treatment of Palestinians”. In a video posted on YouTube, Anonymous said they would “erase Israel from cyberspace”. As with their previous operations, the hacktivist collective took to Twitter to report their activities. Anonymous announced on YouTube that OpIsrael would begin on April 7 when “elite cyber-squadrons from around the world have decided to unite in solidarity with the Palestinian people against Israel as one entity.”

Unusual level

The group also addressed the Israeli government, saying: “You have NOT stopped your endless human right violations. You have NOT stopped illegal [colonies] settlements. You have NOT respected the ceasefire. You have shown that you do NOT respect international law.”

Deputy Information Security Officer Ofir Cohen added of the impending OpIsrael assault: “The estimations are that [the cyber-attacks] will reach an unusual level that we have never seen before.”

The list includes banks, schools, businesses and a host of prominent government websites.

The attack which fell on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, was played down by Israeli officials. Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, of the government’s National Cyber Bureau, said hackers had mostly failed to shut down key sites. 

“So far it is as was expected, there is hardly any real damage,” Ben Yisrael said. “Anonymous doesn’t have the skills to damage the country’s vital infrastructure. And if that was its intention, then it wouldn’t have announced the attack ahead of time. It wants to create noise in the media about issues that are close to its heart,” he said.
“God bless the minds and the efforts of the soldiers of the electronic battle,” Ehab Al Ghussian, Gaza’s chief government spokesman, wrote on his official Facebook page.

Anonymous who?

Anonymous is a decentralised virtual community referred to as an internet-based collective of hacktivists whose goals, like its organisation, are decentralised. An official of the militant Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip praised the current attack. The loosely affiliated network of hacktivists, has attacked sites around the world, including those of MasterCard and Visa, the Justice Department and the Tunisian and Yemeni governments.

On Thursday, the group claimed to have broken into at least two of North Korea’s government-run online sites. The North’s Uriminzokkiri Twitter and Flickr accounts stopped sending out content typical of that posted by the regime in Pyongyang, such as photos of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un meeting military officials. Instead, a picture posted on the North’s Flickr site shows Kim’s face with a pig-like snout and a drawing of Mickey Mouse on his chest. Underneath, the text reads: “Threatening world peace with ICBMs and Nuclear weapons/Wasting money while his people starve to death.”

A statement purporting to come from the attackers and widely circulated online said they had compromised 15,000 user records hosted on Uriminzokkiri.com and other websites. US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address this year addressed the growing threat of hackers and he introduced an executive order aimed at combatting it.

Much of the executive order focuses on enabling government agencies to share information about cybersecurity threats with the private sector. The group is responsible for cyber-attacks on the Pentagon, News Corp and has also threatened to destroy Facebook. 

— With inputs from agencies