Experts Weigh in On the Israel-Hamas Cyberwar – Who is Paying the Price?

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Cybersecurity experts reveal the online battle happening alongside the physical one in the Israel-Hamas war, cataloging and analyzing the various cyber operations performed by Hamas, Israel, and other nations and hacking groups that support each side. The main conclusion is that the main victims and those suffering most of all are the civilians and not the official bodies.

When it comes to Hamas’ cyberwarfare activities, the attacks have had mixed effects – some attacks were technically simple and succeeded in obtaining crucial intelligence that assisted Hamas’ attack inside Israel, while other attacks targeted anything within digital reach without military purpose, simply aiming to disrupt Israeli life and terrorize the public.

Before October 7th, a Hamas hacking unit called Gaza Cybergang spied on Israel and gathered crucial information that was instrumental during the devastating attack. Then as the war unfolded, the pro-Palestinian hacktivist group AnonGhost released an app impersonating the security alert app “Red Alert” that issued false alerts and collected users’ data.

However, since the fighting became a full-fledged war, Hamas has been unable to carry out effective cyberattacks to aid its war efforts, and therefore turned to information warfare, seeking to evoke panic and shift public opinion. The most common type of cyberattack currently used by Hamas and their allies is DDoS, attacks that have hit websites for news media outlets, banks, financial institutions, and government agencies. Hamas and its online allies are also using wiper malware that infects a computer and destroys its data, not meant to extort but rather destroy and wreak havoc in its wake.

Israel, however, is a global cyber power with some of the strongest cyber warfare capabilities in the world, yet its cyber arsenal is not as effective as it could be because Hamas doesn’t heavily depend on the internet. And so, Israel’s primary strategy has been to control internet connectivity in Gaza. On October 27th, Israel imposed a near-total telecommunications blackout that lasted 34 hours, which was heavily condemned by international organizations, mainly because this meant injured Palestinians couldn’t call for medical assistance. Since then, similar internet shutdowns happened frequently, and the damage, displacement, and power and internet disruptions have reduced internet connectivity in Gaza to 15% of its typical rate.

When there was internet connectivity in Gaza, pro-Israeli hacktivists got involved, like the WeRedEvils group which crashed the Gaza Now news site. According to the data-transfer and tracking company Cloudflare, at some point up to 60% of all traffic to Palestinian websites was made up of denial-of-service attack traffic, while the bulk of the attacks were aimed at banks and technology companies.

The Techxplore researchers concluded that unfortunately, digital battles cannot win wars, and emphasized that these attacks have been devastating mostly towards civilians, disrupting electricity and basic needs, and mainly wreaking havoc in terms of psychological distress.

This information was provided by Techxplore.