The latest fighting between Israel and the terrorists of Gaza is exposing the Jewish State to many threats. There are, of course, the rockets that have already killed three Israelis and forced over a million civilians into bomb shelters, but less spectacular attacks are also causing problems for the tiny Middle Eastern nation. The hacker group Anonymous decided to get into the act and show their support for Gaza by defacing thousands of Israeli websites. Now a much more serious threat has surfaced with the news that unknown hackers with suspected terrorist ties successfully accessed the computers of the Israeli Police Department.
The hackers were able to infect the Police Department computers with virus containing a trojan, and authorities believe they were attempting to mine data from classified police files. Apparently, the hackers used an email to enter the network, and experts fear it may have taken as long as a week before anyone realized something was wrong.
Unbelievably, the network was compromised by an email sent from email@example.com. Anyone receiving the message should have realized the IDF Chief Of Staff would not be sending an official communication via Gmail, and they certainly should not have opened the attached RAR file containing the virus and trojan. Standard security protocols were ignored, and a high level network was violated.
Perhaps it was the relative simplicity of the method that lead to success, but the results are frightening. There are undoubtedly many top secret documents in the Israeli Police Department’s computer files. It is entirely possible that the identities of undercover police officers, informers, and collaborators, who were working to identify terrorists in Gaza, are now known to Hamas. While Israeli officials are not talking, for obvious reasons, one can only wonder how many operations to track down missiles launch sites, or weapons storage facilities, may have been exposed.
Computer security experts have been warning governments about the use of Cyber Warfare by less affluent nations to level the playing field. It takes hundreds of billions of dollars to build a modern Army, Navy, and Air Force and hundreds of thousands of soldiers to fight a major war. A small country can utilize the talents of a few computer wizards on high powered laptops to break into a network and steal battle plans, reveal the names of enemy agents, and even launch computer controlled weapons at the wrong targets. Its warfare on the cheap, and it is potentially lethal.
Reflecting on the possible damage done to the nation of Israel in this latest engagement on the cyber battlefield, Roni Bachar, head of Avnet Security, was blunt in his assessment of who was responsible for the attack on the Police Department computers:
“At this point, I think we can be fairly certain that it was sponsored by a nation-state, most likely Iran.”
An Important Note For Our Readers:
Politically motivated hacking is not only a risk to nations and large corporations. There have been dozens of cases of small websites, bloggers, and private individuals who post comments on the web who being hacked for voicing their opinion. There all all sorts of free tools on the internet that can be used to hack a computer, and it does not take a great deal of skill to use them.
If you are someone who enjoys expressing their opinions on the web, you should be sure to protect your computer against those who would exercise a high tech heckler’s veto by hacking your system. Always use an anti-virus program and a firewall; update your operating system and your software regularly; use effective passwords of 12 to 15 characters with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols; don’t open emails or attachments from strangers; and don’t use pirated software. Be smart, take precautions, and stay safe on the World Wide Web.