Web war as hack attacks mirror Middle East conflict

3 Aug 2006

The current conflict in the Middle East has spread to the internet with reports that hundreds of websites have been attacked or defaced in protest against the bombing attacks by Israel against Lebanon.

According to the IT security website Zone-H, cyber war has broken out with close to 8,000 reported intrusions against certain sites classed as being politically motivated. In more than 1,100 defacements there were messages directly relating to the war in the Middle East.

Among the targets of the attacks were NASA, Berkeley University in the US and military websites, said Roberto Preatoni, a founder of Zone-H. In an article on the organisation’s website, he said that the majority of web intrusions were defacements, which he described as “web intrusion at any level by which a web page is replaced by the attacker’s message”. The targets were websites in Israel and the US.

Preatoni pointed out that the sources of the attacks have been widespread, beyond the expected countries such as Turkey, Kuwait or Morocco. He said that the NASA website was hacked by a south American group known as “Beyond hackers team”, which replaced some web pages by posting images of a child that had been injured in an attack, along with the following message: “No war. This is a cyber-protest, we are : Xtech Inc (Argentina-Mexico-Germany) — eno7 (Turkey) — byond crew (Chile) — hackbsd crew (Cuba-Dominican Republic) defaced by byond crew — Chile.”

Zone-H has published a sample of the reworked web pages at www.zone-h.org/content/view/13937/30/, including others which call for an intervention to stop the attacks against Lebanon.

According to a report in The Times, Israel’s government is trying to use the internet to win support for its cause. The country’s Foreign Ministry is said to have ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European Jewish activist groups can place supportive messages.

Over the past week, nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students have downloaded special software called megaphone that alerts them to chatrooms or online polls where the war is being discussed. This gives them the chance to write posts with a different point of view to what they believe is pro-Arab bias.

For example, if an online poll is put up by a newspaper in France, members are informed so that they can cast votes in that poll in order to influence public opinion.

By Gordon Smith