By Christopher Bing and Raphael Satter
(Reuters) – Hacktivist groups say they are hitting Israeli targets online amid the war in Israel and Gaza, disrupting and defacing websites like the Jerusalem Post.
The conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors routinely attracts both intense global interest and politically minded hackers – dubbed hacktivists – who piggyback on the fighting, either to support their favored side or simply get attention.
“There are dozens of victims per day, claimed by both pre-established and new (hacktivist) groups,” cyber intelligence firm Recorded Future said.
Examples of serious or long-term damage are still thin, but the activism shows how a subset of supporters use digital tools to bring the war online.
So far, among other incidents, a set of hackers supporting Hamas, known as AnonGhost, have claimed they disrupted an Israeli emergency alert application, according to their social media channel.
Another group, named AnonymousSudan, said on Telegram they were actively targeting Israel’s critical infrastructure, although it provided little by way of evidence for its claims.
More than 100 websites in Israel have been either defaced or temporarily disrupted through simple distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), which work by flooding a site with a rush of inauthentic traffic, according to security analysts.
“The attackers have managed to knock us offline for extended periods over the past few days,” Jerusalem Post Editor-in-chief Avi Mayer said in an email. “This is a blatant assault on freedom of the press.”
Israel’s Computer Emergency Response Team, or CERT, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It is often difficult to determine the accuracy of hacktivists’ claims. The same dynamic played out in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which saw a volunteer army of pro-Ukraine hackers claim credit for numerous attacks on Russian websites and other online services.
Analysts do however expect significant cyberespionage activity to happen behind the scenes.
Last week, Microsoft released a report which recorded how one Gaza-based hacker group known as Storm-1133 had ramped up its cyber spying efforts on Israeli companies involved in telecommunications, defense and energy earlier this year.
“We assess this group works to further the interests of Hamas,” the report stated.
Omri Segev Moyal, the chief executive of Israel cybersecurity firm Profero, said his firm had recently picked up some hacking activity tied to an Iranian spy group nicknamed Muddy Water and intrusion attempts potentially linked to Molerats, another group that researchers believe acts for Hamas.
Molerats activity “stopped after the bombing started,” he said.
(Reporting by Christopher Bing and Raphael Satter in Washington; additional reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in San Francisco; editing by Chris Sanders and Sonali Paul)