Middle-East Cyberbattle Escalates as Arab Banks Take a Pounding

Unrest between Israelis and Arabs on the cybersecurity front is escalating, with Israeli hackers having reportedly taken down the websites of the Saudi and Abu Dhabi stock exchanges.

The Israeli hackers, who call themselves “IDF-Team,” paralyzed the Saudi stock exchange (Tadawu) site and caused significant delays to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

They warned of more retaliatory attacks if Arab hackers continue their activities.

“This … is the beginning of a new era — that related to digital warfare,” Leonid Shtilman, CEO of Viewfinity, told TechNewsWorld. “In this instance, it’s specific to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but [it] certainly represents a broader view of all future conflicts.”

It’s Clobberin’ Time

The stock exchanges weren’t the only targets apparently hit by the Israeli hackers.

The websites for the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Arab Bank, which serves the troubled Gaza Strip, were offline when TechNewsWorld checked them Thursday afternoon.

It’s not clear whether the IDF-Team has any connection to the Israel Defense Forces, which is the Jewish state’s military.

The exact methods used by IDF-Team have not been disclosed, but it’s possible that they consisted of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

A DDoS attack hits the victim’s servers or network connections with a flood of requests within a short span of time. This overloads and shuts down the system. Hackers often launch DDoS attacks from botnets.

The so-called Nightmare hackers who hit Israeli websites on Monday also used DDoS attacks.

Cyber Pat-a-Cake in The Middle East

Thursday’s cyberattacks by the IDF-Team are the latest in a chain of attacks by hackers from both sides on the websites of institutions in each other’s countries.

On Monday, hackers reportedly associated with the pro-Palestinian group Nightmare hit the websites of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) and Israel’s El Al airline.

They also attacked the websites of the First International Bank of Israel and two subsidiaries, Massad and Otzar Hahayal. However, the banks said only their marketing sites had been hacked.

The websites of TASE and El Al were up and running again in a few hours.

A Saudi hacker calling himself “0xOmar” warned of more attacks following Monday’s hacks. He had previously published details of more than 400,000 credit cards owned by Israelis in two separate incidents.

The earlier hack against the Israeli institutions followed a call by Hamas over the weekend for more hacking attacks against Israel.

On Tuesday, a pro-Israel hacker with the handle of “Hannibal” reportedly published a list of 30,000 email addresses and Facebook passwords of Arabs online. He claimed to have 30 million email addresses and passwords of Arabs, credit card information from 4 million cards owned by Arabs, and details of 10 million bank accounts.

Prior to that, an Israeli hacker published details of more than 200 credit cards that he claimed were owned by Saudis.

Trouble is a Friend

Expect more cyberincursions from both sides.

IDF-Team has warned that it will strike Arab countries’ websites for stock markets, governments and sites related to their economies and to security unless attacks on Israeli sites are halted.

However, attacks on Israeli websites don’t necessarily originate in Arab countries. About half of the computers in the botnet that launched Monday’s attacks were in Israel, Haaretz reported.

The conflict “seems to be related to social-digital wars,” Viewfinity’s Shtilman said. “Be prepared that the level of potential damages from such attacks will grow.”

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Dan Meridor, has reportedly called on Israeli hackers to stop the escalation.

However, “several thousand years of history make the odds about a trillion to one in favor of escalation,” IT security expert Randy Abrams warned.

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