The hacker attack that exposed the credit card numbers and other personal information of thousands of Israelis last week shows every sign of being an unsophisticated break-in that exploited the weaknesses of a poorly secured website. But experts warn that for Israel, like other highly networked economies, the worst is yet to come.
Lone-wolf hackers have gradually gained the knowledge and experience once the preserve of intelligence agencies and armies. Instead of defacing websites or shutting them down by flooding them with e-mails, growing numbers of hackers have the ability to disrupt electricity, water, medical and other critical services, they say.
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“To shut down a major network, even for a government, is considered to be difficult, and demands excellent experience and knowledge, but there are a few tens of thousands of people around the world who could do it,” Ron Porat, who co-founded Hacktics, an Israeli maker of anti-hacking technology, told The Media Line. “Some of them have the motivation also.”
A group of Saudi hackers dubbed Group-XP led by someone who goes by the web name OxOmar claimed last week to have obtained the personal information some 400,000 Israelis through credit card data. The Bank of Israel said the numbers were in fact much smaller, probably about 15,000 names, and that the credit card issuers had blocked the exposed accounts.
Nevertheless, the attack drew a sharp response from Israel as well as its arch-nemesis, the Palestinian militant movement Hamas. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon termed the cyber-attack “a breach of sovereignty comparable to a terrorist operation” and hinted at unspecified “retaliatory action.”
Hamas, which is not believed to have had anything to do with this attack, termed it “a new form of resistance.” Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri was quoted by Reuters urging others to ignore Ayalon’s threat and “use all means available in the virtual space to confront Israeli crimes.