Hacktivists Jumping Into Israel-Hamas Conflict With Cyber Attacks

by | Oct 17, 2023

An assortment of hacktivists are jumping into the Israel-Hamas conflict, and thus far most of the early cyber attacks have been limited denial of service (DDoS) attempts on public websites.

This is similar to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and in fact some of the same pro-Russia groups (such as KillNet and Anonymous Sudan) have declared support for Palestine and knocked websites in Israel offline. While most of the hacktivists seem to be on the side of Hamas, there are some who have aligned themselves with Israel and gone after targets in Gaza.

Cyber attack patterns mirror those in Ukraine as hacktivists jump in

Cybersecurity experts believe the Israel-Hamas conflict will eventually incorporate cyber attacks from the two major players, and potentially from Iran and other sources with an interest in the region. But for now, the action appears to be limited to a loose collection of about 100 self-styled hacktivist groups that are DDoSing sites in the name of one side or the other.

Big claims have been made by some of these groups about breaches of the Iron Dome and Israel’s utility grid, but none of that has been substantiated so far. Instead, websites such as the Jerusalem Post have been repeatedly attacked and had spates of going offline for up to several hours as DDoS waves play out.

Iran has some record of actually penetrating the electrical grid and water utilities in Israel, but does not seem to have directly involved its state-backed hacking teams as of yet. Russian intelligence is believed to have supported and trained these groups in the past, and there is an outside possibility the nation could get involved in some way as well; the independent Russian hacktivists thus far are almost universally favoring Gaza in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Complex Israel-Hamas conflict too difficult to predict

Every aspect of the Israel-Hamas conflict has numerous complications and variables in play, including how cyber attacks might play out. Much hinges on how intense and long-term the IDF response in Gaza is, and if other nations opt to jump into the fray.

An analysis by cybersecurity firm CyberCX finds that at least 30 hacking groups have openly declared support for one side or the other. Another report by threat intelligence firm FalconFeeds.io finds that about 100 groups are at least taking advantage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, with most appearing to favor one side or the other (about 75% on the Hamas side) but at least three simply looking for opportunities on either side in the midst of the chaos.

The pattern of cyber attacks by prominent groups like KillNet and Anonymous Sudan fits what they have been doing in Ukraine for well over a year now, almost exclusively hitting public-facing websites with DDoS campaigns that generally do not do lasting damage. At least 20 website takedowns in Israel have been tied to these groups thus far. The most likely targets will be government websites and those belonging to banks, airports and utility companies. Another hacking group calling itself “AnonGhost” managed to breach an app used for rocket attack warnings and send false reports to an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 users in Israel.

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