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War between Hamas and Israel sparks hacktivism

Several hacktivist groups have flooded Israeli websites with malicious traffic after Hamas’ surprise land, sea, and air attack on Saturday, which prompted Israel to declare war and retaliate.

The Jerusalem Post reported Monday that its website was down since Saturday morning “due to a series of cyberattacks initiated against us.”

As of writing, the paper’s website was down.

At a conference on Monday, National Security Agency director of cybersecurity Rob Joyce said there have been DDoS attacks and website defacements without naming specific groups.

Joyce stated, “But we’re not yet seeing real [nation] state malicious actors.”

Hacktivist groups often launch cyberattacks during wartime, like in Ukraine. Politically motivated hackers often operate independently of governments. Their activities can disrupt websites and services, but are much less extensive than nation-state hacking groups. Researchers and government agencies like the NSA say hacktivists have been active only in this Hamas-Israel conflict.

NSA and Israel’s Consulate General in New York did not respond to requests for comment.

Joyce’s comments appear to confirm security researcher Will Thomas’s findings, who told that he has seen over 60 DDoS attacks and over five defaced websites as of Monday.

I’m surprised by the number of international hacktivists targeting Israel in support of Palestine, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Morocco. Thomas said in an online chat that long-time threat actors who have participated in attacks and spread them using #OpIsrael have returned.

Pro-Palestinian hacktivists have targeted government websites, civil services, news sites, financial institutions, and telecommunications and energy companies, according to Equinix Threat Analysis Center cyber threat intelligence researcher Thomas on X, formerly Twitter.

Hacktivists are not the only actors in the conflict, says Thomas.

“I have seen several posts of DDoS-for-Hire or Initial Access Brokers offering their services to those targeting Israel or Palestine,” he said.

Initial access brokers are groups that breach websites and networks and sell access to hackers.

Independent researcher and consultant Lukasz Olejnik says these cyberattacks can have a limited impact on the armed conflict.

Hacktivist groups have limited potential for cybercrime. Considering everything going on, the effects would be minimal or none. “A distraction (or information influence),” Olejnik told .

Cyberattacks in the Israel-Hamas war occurred less than a week after the International Committee of the Red Cross published rules for hacktivists in military conflicts. These groups should avoid civilian targets.

Hacktivists defaced Russia’s Red Cross website after the ICRC announcement.

Hamas militants in Gaza, a small Palestinian enclave in Israel, launched a surprise attack on Saturday. After bulldozing barricades, Hamas militants infiltrated bordering Israeli towns and killed over 700 people. The worst attacks in 50 years prompted the Israeli government to declare war and bombard Gaza, killing over 400 people, according to The Associated Press.

Egypt and Israel have blockaded Gaza since 2007, isolating it and preventing imports. Gaza borders Egypt on the Mediterranean. The CIA World Factbook estimates that two million people live in the territory, which is slightly larger than Washington, D.C.

Since 2007, Hamas and Israel have fought several wars.

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