A top Saudi banking official on Tuesday denied an Israeli media report that hackers from Israel obtained credit card and bank account details of thousands of Saudi citizens, retaliating for an attack on Israeli accounts.
Talaat Hafez, secretary-general of the media office in the kingdom's banking authority, denied a report by the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that Israeli hackers were threatening to release the financial information they obtained if hackers continue to publish Israeli credit details on line.
Hafez was quoted by the Saudi online newspaper Sabq.org as saying that Saudi bank customers' financial information was safe and there was "no need for customers to be concerned" because Saudi banks' information networks were very secure.
Hafez also said officials had received no reports from Saudis about their data being breached.
The dueling reports underscored the hostile relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel's statehood.
The hacking issue surfaced after Yediot Ahronot's online edition, YNet, reported that hackers — identifying themselves as Group XP, claimed to have gained access to 400,000 Israeli credit card accounts in what was described as "a gift to the world for the New Year."
Days later, a hacker claiming to be a 19-year-old Saudi national, using the pseudonym OxOmar, posted online the credit card details and personal information of 6,000 thousand Israelis and said he had access to tens of thousands of other accounts. He said the "Zionist lobby" was behind covering up the size of the initial leak.
Israeli officials said about 21,000 active credit card accounts in all were compromised. Banks said the cards were canceled and new ones issued.
It was not possible to independently verify the claims by the hackers.
In apparent retribution for the cyber attacks, YNet reported that Israeli hackers inside and outside the country had obtained the records of thousands of credit cards used in Saudi shopping web sites. One of the hackers, who was not identified, told the newspaper they would disclose the material if "the leaks continue."
YNet said it reviewed the information and can "confirm that at least some of the names on the list are real and match the rest of the details presented in the hacker' list." The website said it verified some of the information through Facebook pages and email accounts.
Over the weekend, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon described the cyber-attacks as terrorism and warned that Israel would "retaliate forcefully."
On Monday, he found his own website had been attacked.
"Cyberspace appears to be the new battlefield, and our opponents will not be able to defeat us on this plain, either," Ayalon said Monday.