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Cyber Threats due to Gaza and Israel-Hamas Conflict

October 10, 2023 | 4 MINS READ

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In light of the recent conflict initiated by Hamas, Israel is witnessing a pronounced increase in cyberattacks. This surge is not isolated to Israel alone; international organizations that have publicly expressed their stance on the conflict or are based in nations known to support either side are also at heightened risk. The cyber landscape is evolving rapidly, with implications for Israeli governmental entities, media platforms, and critical infrastructure.

The current scenario highlights the amplified risk posed by hacktivist groups stemming from both sides of the conflict. While diverse in their affiliations and motivations, these groups commonly employ tactics such as Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, website defacement, and hack & leak operations. It's essential to recognize that while regional organizations remain primary targets, the threat landscape extends to international entities that have either voiced their perspectives on the situation or are situated in nations with known affiliations.

Furthermore, the eSentire Threat Intelligence Team assesses that the ongoing conflict will increase the region's Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) activity. Given its historical trajectory of targeting Israeli interests, Iran emerges as a significant player in this context. Their cyber strategies have encompassed both espionage-driven campaigns and the deployment of destructive wiper attacks.

Organizations in the region are recommended to operate under heightened awareness as the conflict continues.

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The cyber landscape surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict is intricate, with multiple hacking groups, each showcasing distinct motivations and affiliations.

The group known as Killnet, which purports to be made up of Russian hacktivists, has been particularly vocal about its intentions against Israel. Their motivations seem to be tied to Israel's perceived support for Ukraine and NATO, and their recent activities include alleged DDoS attacks on critical Israeli government websites. Another group, Anonymous Sudan, which some cybersecurity experts suspect to be a front for Russian interests, has shown its support for the Palestinian cause. They've taken credit for disruptions on the Jerusalem Post's website.

Further complicating the cyber landscape is AnonGhost, which has claimed responsibility for compromising a widely-used mobile phone application in Israel. This app, designed to issue missile alerts, was manipulated to deliver fake and threatening notifications to its users. On the other side of the digital battlefield, pro-Israel hacking factions are also making their presence felt. A notable example is the "Indian Cyber Force," which has claimed successful attacks on the Palestinian National Bank and Hamas websites.

Historically, Iranian hackers have often targeted Israel, but their involvement in the current skirmish remains undetermined at this time. Iran boasts multiple sophisticated APT groups, with a history of attacks targeting Israel and allied countries. Previous Iranian campaigns in the region have included both espionage and destructive attacks. Iran has provided significant support of Hamas and publicly stated support for the recent attack; it is highly probable that Iran will continue to support Hamas in the current conflict, which will probably include cyber-attacks.

While many of these cyberattacks are deeply rooted in political motivations, some appear opportunistic. For instance, the publicity surrounding the conflict attracts groups like Killnet, which might be leveraging the situation to monetize DDoS attacks. This wave of cyber activities sends a clear message about Russia's alignment with Hamas, and by extension Iran, and its stance against Israel as a proxy to the United States and the broader NATO alliance.

Iranian state-sponsored threat actor groups have recently been observed exploiting the following vulnerabilities:

As we have seen in the early days of this attack, cyber warfare has played a critical role as retribution. The eSentire Threat Intelligence team assesses that we will almost certainly see further attacks, suggesting the potential for an escalation in cyber activities. Additionally, a rise in hacktivists and individuals rallying in the digital realm to defend their chosen causes will likely impact the region as tensions remain high. Even if these initial cyber interventions aren't sophisticated, their potential to exploit system vulnerabilities or disseminate dis/mal/misinformation can't be underestimated. Given the intertwining of geopolitical tensions with cyber warfare, the situation remains fluid, and staying informed and vigilant is paramount.


[1] https://fortune.com/2023/10/09/cyberattacks-israel-hamas-attack-russia-palestineddos/
[2] https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live-news/israel-hamas-war-gaza-10-10-23/index.html
[3] https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/killnet-analyst-note.pdf
[4] https://ca.news.yahoo.com/anonymous-sudan-hacker-group-behind-171016471.html
[5] https://www.adl.org/resources/profile/anonghost-team
[6] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/blog/2023/04/07/mercury-and-dev-1084-destructive-attack-on-hybrid-environment/
[7] https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/irans-support-against-israel-bolsters-hamas

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