Cyber attackers claiming to be linked to hacking collective Anonymous struck at Israeli targets over the weekend. However, despite claiming to have taken down government-run websites and caused billions of dollars in damages, Israeli authorities said the attacks were largely unsuccessful.
Posting under the heading of Operation Israel, hackers said they targeted the country in retaliation for recent airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and attacks on Palestinians. In a statement posted before the attacks began, Anonymous warned Israel it was going to launch a cyber attack on the country.
“On April 7, elite cyber squadrons from around the world have decided to unite in solidarity with the Palestinian people against Israel as one entity to disrupt and erase Israel from cyber space,” the statement said.
A Twitter account by the name of Op_Israel provided updates throughout the afternoon of April 7, while the cyber attacks were reported to be taking place, such as when Israeli websites were reported to have been taken offline by the attacks.
One tweet suggested the attacks had caused a huge amount of damage: “#Anonymous partial damage report, 100k+ websites, 40k Facebook pages, 5k twitter & 30k Israeli bank acc got hacked ~ $3-plus billion damage,” the tweet said.
However, no evidence has been supplied to back up this claim. A number of sites reportedly taken offline by Anonymous, including the websites of Mossad, the Ministry of Defense and the Israeli Prime Minister, were in fact available at the time of writing.
Authorities in Israel have said the attack caused very little damage to the nation's cyber infrastructure and they retaliated by arresting a number of suspected hackers in Jordan. Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, of the Israeli government's National Cyber Bureau, told the Independent that the attacks were more likely to be a publicity stunt.
“So far it is as was expected, there is hardly any real damage. Anonymous doesn't have the skills to damage the country's vital infrastructure,” he said. “And if that was its intention, then it wouldn't have announced the attack of time. It wants to create noise in the media about issues that are close to its heart.”
In another statement, released to the New York Times, Israel's Ministry of Finance said some government sites were under DDoS attacks, one of which caused the Foreign Affairs Ministry's site to go offline “for a few seconds before returning to normal operations.”
The most recent messages on the Op_Israel Twitter page, posted mid-morning UK time on Monday 8th April, warned the Israeli government to expect more attacks. “To the Government of Israel: You think #OpIsrael is over . . . this was just the beginning,” the tweet said.