Update: Mideast tensions prompt 'cyberconflicts'

By Jennifer DiSabatino, Computer World |  Tech & society, Tech & society

So-called hacktivists criticizing Israel for the violence in the Mideast have hit several Web sites in the past 24 hours and are calling on attacks of other Israeli-related Web sites.

A stream of sites related to or believed to have a connection with Israel have been defaced. Among the first to be reported was the hack of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) site last night.

The hacks mark a definite rise in the number of so-called hacktivist attacks that were set off by a new outbreak of violence that began Oct. 6 between Israel and the Palestinians.

The AIPAC site remains defaced and has been taken down, but a copy of the defacement has been recorded by the Attrition Mirror, a Web site that documents verifiable hacks.

The defacement rails against Israeli policy with regard to Palestinians. It also has links to credit-card information of some of the site's users, a link to the list of member e-mail addresses and pages of pictures.

A hacker name Doctor Nuker took responsibility for the attack on the AIPAC site. The hack is similar to the almost daily defacements done by a group called GForce, which has posted detailed descriptions of alleged violence in Kashmir by the Indian government.

GForce has now taken up the Palestinian cause and has defaced a number of sites that have an .il (Israel) domain. The GForce defacements include photos and content from the Docter Nuker hack.

Last Thursday, the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) warned that such digital activism has been and would continue to be a fallout of the violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The recent unrest in the Middle East appears to have been responsible for an increase in cyberattack activity between sympathizers on both sides of the tensions. Known targets have included Web sites operated by the Israeli government and military as well as Web sites operated by pro-Palestinian organizations including Hizballah and Hamas," according to an advisory at the NIPC site.

"There's been a constant tit-for-tat going on endlessly, day and night since Oct. 6 and there are no signs of it slowing down," said Ben Venzke, director of intelligence production at iDefense Inc. an Internet security company in Fairfax, Va., that advises companies about how they can protect themselves from a cyberattack. IDefense monitors Web sites and networks to capture the types of malicious software programs that are in place and examines them to determine how best to defend against them.

Terrorist organizations and other groups are supporting the most recent activity, which Venzke said was extensive enough to be characterized as "cyberconflict," but not "cyberwarfare."

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