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‌Hamas-Aligned Cyber Group Takes Credit For Threatened Tel Aviv Airport Attack‌

‌A secret web war is underway between Israel and its Iran-backed foes, which could shut down airports and tank Israeli start-ups.‌

Hamas is also attacking Israel in cyberspace – an online war that threatened the Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s largest, and is aiming to cripple its hospitals, power plants, and water treatment facilities.

Sometimes Israel responds with real-life bombs to online attacks. Israel launched an airstrike on a building in Gaza that it claimed housed a Hamas cyber unit in 2019. 

Israel, which has been fending off cyber attacks for years, has suffered a surge in hacking attacks from groups aligned with Hamas.

The Stucx Team hacking group announced an attack on the website of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on Monday, one of multiple instances of increased hacking activity in the wake of Hamas’s deadly attacks on Israel from the Gaza strip. 

“Tonight we will start an attack on the website of Israeli air transport,” the group said in a post on Telegram. “We hereby call on the Mujahiddin to prepare for a successful attack on this web. May what we do be rewarded as well as help weaken the Zionists.”

The online attacks could delay the return of U.S. air carriers, trapping many U.S. nationals in a war zone. United, Delta, and American Air Lines had already suspended direct flights to Israel following the devastating attacks that have left more than 800 Israelis dead, injured, or kidnapped. The communication department at Ben Gurion airport did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The stand of the Israeli police is seen in the 4th International conference on Home Land Security and Cyber in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on November 15, 2016. / AFP / JACK GUEZ        (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images) 

Several hacker collectives have issued calls-to-arms since the war began on Saturday.

Israel is working with tech companies to remove online content that promotes Hamas activities, according to Joseph Harrison, CEO of IT Companies Network, a Dallas-based IT service provider. 

Other cyber defense strategies include identifying and tracking Hamas members online and disrupting their communication channels, such as social media and encryption-based messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp.

“Overall, Israel has been more successful in limiting Hamas’ online activities than Hamas has been in limiting Israel’s. This is due to Israel’s superior cyber capabilities and resources,” Harisson told Zenger. “Israel’s proactive approach and investment in cybersecurity have enabled them to limit Hamas’ impact on their cyber connections effectively.” 

That isn’t to say that Hamas-aligned “hacktivists” aren’t still trying to make their mark where they can. 

The first major cyberattack of this weekend was launched by Anonymous Sudan, according to a timeline compiled by Julian Botham, a cyber consultant. The group had previously claimed responsibility for destabilizing several Microsoft 365 services on June 6 in a mass distributed denial of service (known as “DDoS”) attack.   

A member of the Israeli company Elbit Systems gives an demonstration of an integrated operational counterterror scenario during the 4th International conference on Home Land Security and Cyber in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on November 15, 2016. / AFP / JACK GUEZ        (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images) 

Anonymous Sudan, which is suspected of having Russian backing and has openly pledged support for the Palestinian Resistance, is a major player in the anti-Israel hacking space.  

“Hamas has definitely shown that they have significant offensive cyber-capabilities with this attack,” said Greg Hatcher, a former U.S. Army green beret who now leads a cyber security consultancy called White Knight Labs.

“Anonymous Sudan claimed [on October 7] to have taken down the Jerusalem Post news website with a distributed service attack. Clearly they have a lot of bots with this DdoS campaign,” said Hatcher.

“Why was Israel caught so off-guard? Israel is putting too much stock in using SIGINT (signal intelligence) as opposed to HUMINT (human intelligence) when it comes to keeping tabs on Gaza and Hamas. Hamas knows this and is using archaic means of communication, ie no cell phones/computers, delivering messages by hand, etc,” said Hatcher.  “This is very similar to how Al Qaeda and Taliban reacted to the United States use of signal intelligence in Iraq/Aghanistan.”

Anonymous Sudan works as subset of Killnet, a group that claims to be made up of pro-Russian nationals that has also pledged to cyber-attack Israel.

“Government of Israel, you are to blame for this bloodshed. Back in 2022, you supported the terrorist regime of Ukraine. You betrayed Russia. Today Killnet officially informs you about it! All Israeli government systems will be subject to our attacks,” said Killnet in a statement on Telegram. 

Israel has been forced to sharpen their cybertechnology capabilities to defend itself from a “nearly constant barrage of cyberattacks,” according to a 2016 study by Harvard University, Northeastern University, and the Institute for National Security Studies.  

Several cyber security companies in Israel – which is home to 33 percent of $1 billion startups, or “unicorns,” are now on market watch.

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