27 October 2000
By Matthew Kalman
JERUSALEM — Israeli and Arab Internet hackers went to war Thursday, paralyzing each other's Web sites with an arsenal of desktop weapons that managed to penetrate the most sophisticated defenses.
The Israeli Knesset Web site was frozen for hours after it was "spammed" — overloaded with hundreds of thousands of electronic messages. Similar attacks brought down the main Israeli government portal and the Foreign Ministry Web site for more than 30 hours. Attacks also continued through the night on the Israel Defense Forces Web site.
The Web site of the Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamic movement that captured three Israeli soldiers and an Israeli businessman in Switzerland two weeks ago, was successfully penetrated by a hacker who replaced its blistering anti-Israel rhetoric with a rippling Israeli flag and a soundtrack of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem. Sites belonging to other groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Information Center were also targeted.
News from the e-world battle lines:
A Lebanese hacker, identified only as Walid, told the Beirut Daily Star newspaper of his plan to hack the Knesset server late Wednesday night. "We'll target and hack Israeli Web sites one by one. This will continue," he said. He warned that the cyberwar could intensify, with Israelis and Arabs trying to e-mail viruses that would destroy each other's systems.
The Israeli army hired AT&T on Thursday to reinforce its service and protect it from
crashing, an army spokesman said. Israeli security officials said they had traced the attacks to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and servers in Europe and North America.
Netvision, Israel's largest service provider, hosts the Knesset and Foreign Ministry Web sites.
The company's other services also were crippled, with private users unable to access their e-mail for much of the day.
"We are taking measures, which for obvious reasons we would rather not reveal, to prevent similar attacks," said Gilad Rabinovich, NetVision's general manager.
Arab hackers swapped information through Internet chat rooms and two sites, UmmahUnity and Tripod, offered advice and downloadable programs to assist anyone who wanted to join the cyberattack against Israeli sites.
As in the real-life clashes over the past month that have claimed more than 130 lives, most of them Palestinians, there was a dispute over who fired the first shot in the virtual war.
Lebanese hackers say the attack on the Israeli Web sites was a response to a call two weeks ago for pro-Israel users to flood the Hezbollah Web site with e-mails.