Israeli cyberdefense holds up
- Washington Times
August 1, 2001
Israel Beats 'Cyber-Jihad' Attacks
By Ben Barber, The Washington Times
Israel has warded off dozens of cyber-attacks on its government and
corporations since the Palestinian uprising began last year, blazing a trail
that could help the
United States develop defenses for future electronic conflicts, terrorism
experts and Israeli officials say.
"Attacks have come from 19 countries, targeting 50 Israel corporations and
government Web sites," said RAND analyst Bruce Hoffman. "Israel is
cutting-edge defenses against this."
Israel's development of futuristic tactics in what one Israel official
called the newest "front" in warfare recalls its battle-testing of American
jets, tanks and missiles
against Soviet bloc weapons during the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israel wars.
Terrorism experts from RAND and from iDefense, an Alexandria firm advising
the U.S. government and industry, say Israel's experience in beating off
will likely serve to protect American government and industry against
But the current Middle East conflict is also a proving ground for groups
intent on fouling up America. "The cyber conflict is serving as a proof of
concept for rebel,
terrorist, activist and other disenfranchised groups around the world," said
an iDefense report on the Middle East conflict.
As the Middle East cyber-war -- called by some Muslims an e-jihad or
cyber-jihad -- went on, the world yesterday braced for an expected
resurgence of a
cyber-worm programmed to reappear last night.
Despite Israel's effectiveness in fighting attacks, pro-Palestinian hackers
from Pakistan and many other Muslim and even Western countries managed to
several Israeli and Jewish sites -- even briefly forcing the closure of the
Israeli foreign and defense ministry Web sites. But efforts to shut down
ports, banks and stock market all failed.
"Israel is very aware of the phenomenon [of cyber-attacks] and is taking
steps to deal with it," said an Israeli Embassy official yesterday.
Despite recent fears -- often the subject of novels -- that hackers could
cause airplanes to crash, traffic lights to misfire and electric or water
systems to go haywire,
the Israeli official said, "I've never heard of a single successful cyber
terrorist attack" against these institutions.
The field is so new that terrorists are constantly seeking to get around
defenses and to learn how they have been blocked from access to their
targets, he said.
He refused to detail any efforts to block cyber-terrorism but acknowledged
the issue "has come up in U.S.-Israel counter-terrorism talks."
"I would not say we are totally cyber terrorist proof, but we have made
efforts to protect our virtual world," he added.
Attacks against Israel began in earnest after the latest violence between
Palestinians and Israelis began last September. Pro-Palestinian groups
attacked 166 Israeli
Web sites in the next few months, according to the iDefense report.
Pro-Israeli groups -- which were the first to begin hacking -- meanwhile had
targeted 34 Palestinian, Arab or extremist sites.
The report cites attacks on the Palestinian Authority and sites in seven
countries: Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia,, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates
and the United
The targets include critical Web sites, e-commerce servers, Internet relay
chat servers, domain name servers, Internet service provider infrastructure
and file transfer
protocol sites, iDefense reported.
"The commercial sector is bearing the brunt of the pro-Palestinian cyber
assault," the report said. The target industries have been technology,
fi-nance, media and health.
Since the United States has often been the target of terrorist attacks by
Muslim groups angry at U.S. support for Israel, Mr. Hoffman and the iDefense
focused in on the threat of cyber-jihad spreading to American targets.
"If the United States came to become involved in activity in the region
which generates a significant level of outrage in the Muslim community,
there is a distinct
possibility that U.S. government and commercial organizations will face
cyber attacks much like those hitting Israel today," said the iDefense
Attacks on the United States could be started in from 24 to 48 hours.
One pro-Palestinian site actually distributed computer viruses such as the
Love Bug and Melissa, which have infected millions of computers, but it
who downloaded those viruses to use them only "on Jews and Israelis."
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