Mikael Thalen Tech Posted on Nov 17, 2023 Updated on Nov 16, 2023, 1:33 pm CST Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 ignited a global hacktivism campaign, producing some of the in history. But why hasn’t a similar response occurred amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine? The reasons have been attributed by experts to numerous factors. Public opinion about the affected countries, their allegiances, and geography all play a part. At least 128 hacking groups, according to the threat intelligence researcher , were publicly involved in campaigns against Russia and Ukraine. The hacks saw everything from simple DDoS attacks and website defacements to the exfiltration of millions of files, primarily from Russia’s private and public sector. The journalism collective , which publishes and archives leaked data, released more than 10 million documents obtained by hackers in just the first 10 weeks following Russia’s invasion. In early March 2022, a staggering 817.5 gigabytes of hacked data from Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal agency responsible for monitoring and censoring media, was published by DDoSecrets. The following month, VGTRK, the largest state-owned media corporation in the nation, had more than 900,000 emails hacked and leaked to DDoSecrets as well. Russia’s public sector was also targeted. Hackers operating under the banner of Anonymous obtained over from the Russian state-controlled pipeline company Transneft that March. Also that month, from , a company that manufactures equipment for drilling, mining, and fracking industries, were also provided to DDoSecrets by Anonymous. Yet the conflict in the MIddle East failed to produce the same flood of data. Gil Messing, the chief of staff for cybersecurity firm , believes the primary difference was Ukraine’s open call to the country’s technology sector and outside actors to carry out cyberattacks against Russia. “We all remember the ‘digital army’ a Ukrainian deputy minister started and rallied for, which attracted hundreds of thousands of people,” Messing said. Viktor Zhora, deputy chief of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection, in March of 2022 that their “IT Army” had racked up more than 400,000 participants from inside and outside the nation. DDoSecrets co-founder Emma Best likewise pointed to the lack of such a technologically proficient force in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Not only that, Best says, Russia’s actions received a much larger pushback globally, whereas political divisions are much more pronounced regarding Israel and Palestine. “Russia’s geographic, military, and economic size also meant it had a lot more targets of opportunity,” Best added. Israel is undoubtedly known for its technical capabilities. And although it does not have an expansive IT Army, the country has its own cybersecurity industry to assist in the war on Hamas. The effort, according to , is focused not only on Hamas but on hacking into the phones and social media accounts of hostages in Gaza to aid the Israeli military in their rescue attempts. Palestine on the other hand lacks such technical capabilities, especially during the ongoing bombardment of critical infrastructure. Israel’s ability to trigger in the region also limits those looking to hack from Palestine. Not only that, Gaza’s largest telecom Paltel on Thursday that power blackouts would soon come as its energy reserves were set to be depleted. “We regret to announce that our main data centers and switches in Gaza Strip are gradually shutting down due to fuel depletion,” the company said. Renowned Swiss hacker maia arson crimew, known best for uncovering the U.S. , argues that Israel’s ties to the U.S. also make it a much harder target than Russia. “The fact that Israel is way smaller and has less infrastructure definitely also plays a role, and this is speculation, but I’m willing to bet Israel overall has better cybersecurity than Russia, especially in defending against more common attacks given cybersecurity is one of the things Israel and the U.S. closely work together in,” crimew told the Daily Dot. Messing further notes that even though Hamas is backed by capable nation-states such as Iran and Lebanon, neither country appears to have carried out any significant hacking campaigns so far. While Israel may have support from more powerful nations, hacktivists publicly involved in attacks appear to primarily side with Palestine. During the early days of the conflict, CyberKnow 58 separate groups operating. At the time, 48 of those groups sided with Palestine, while just 10 expressed a pro-Israel stance. Analysis from early this month, however, shows an to 137 groups. Of those groups, 118 have sided with Palestine while 19 have opted to defend Israel. But even with the uptick in participants, much of the activity still centers around website defacements and DDoS attacks. A handful of more sophisticated attacks have reportedly taken place. Threat researchers claimed that the pro-Palestinian hacktivist group AnonGhost was able to a flaw in Israel’s rocket alert app last month and send out a fake nuclear attack warning. Although public support among hacking groups leans heavily towards Palestine, crimew says the risk associated with targeting Israel as opposed to Russia is much higher for hackers in the Western world. “People who cannot risk touching the U.S. most likely won’t risk touching Israel, at least not in big ways,” crimew told the Daily Dot. “The risk calculations for a lot of the Western hackers are definitely very different for Israel compared to Russia.” Journalist and DDoSecrets member Lorax Horne agrees, noting not only concerns among hackers regarding the technical capabilities of the U.S. but of Israel as well. “I think hacktivists are scared of Israeli lawlessness and its role in the global surveillance and spyware industries,” Horne said. “Israel is at the cutting edge of the use of technologies to surveil and oppress people, and hacktivists believe in self-preservation above all else.” As far as data leaks go, the Israel-Palestine conflict pales in comparison to the war in Ukraine. Even with the war ongoing, it appears unlikely that the Israel-Palestine conflict will produce the same level of hacking as was previously seen. Mikael Thalen is a tech and security reporter covering social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.

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