Israel Bracing for Hacker Group Anonymous’ Annual Cyberattack

People wearing Guy Fawkes masks demonstrate prior to the trial of three 'Anonymous' for their alleged involvement in cyber attacks targetting institutional websites, on November 9, 2015 in front of Nancy's courthouse, eastern France.

JERUSALEM – Israel’s cyber security community is bracing for a coordinated global attack by the hacker group Anonymous, scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 7.

An annual campaign, #OpIsrael began in 2013 on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. Its goal, according to Techcrunch, was to “erase Israel from the Internet.”

Israeli security experts are not alarmed, however, as past #OpIsrael campaigns resulted in minimal damage.

Menny Barzilay, a cybersecurity strategist and formerly the chief information security officer of the Israel Defense Forces, said that a successful cyberattack could cause chaos.

“The nightmare scenario could be significant economical, political, social, and reputational damage. Stock markets collapse, power goes off, nothing works. Obviously, though it is possible, it is more science fiction than a real probable scenario. I expect to see almost no real damage,” Barzilay told Techcrunch.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government’s Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, in cooperation with the Jerusalem municipality and other municipal authorities, is organizing a hacking event titled Cyber (K)night, a “Cyber Defense Challenge” that has so far drawn at least 400 participants.

The event simulates a worst-case scenario attack on the city’s infrastructure and participants are expected to defend the vital facilities in real time.

“The teams will be given challenges which they will have to resolve in order to get everything back in order. Among the judges will be prominent industry figures and the whole event will be accompanied by mentors from leading cyber companies. The first three winners will be awarded one-on-one meetings with industry-leading mentors,” a press statement publicizing the event said.

Among the reasons official Israel is not panicking over Anonymous’ threat, apart from the relative failure of previous #OpIsrael campaigns, is that the attack is less a organized effort and more an ad hoc group of anti-Israel hackers using the Anonymous “brand.”

“Since Anonymous is more an idea than a group it is hard to tell who is part of Anonymous and who is not. Different people with different goals and incentives are assuming the Anonymous brand name in order to support their action. This is why you see both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups using the Anonymous brand while fighting each other,” said Barzilay.

Typically, government websites, banks, and Israel’s major utility companies are unaffected by the attack. The most likely victims are private websites that contain search words strongly tying them with Israel or Israeli symbols.

Affected websites usually have their homepages defaced or hijacked and replaced with anti-Israel messages. Another form of attack is the automated sending of millions of emails, causing servers to collapse and rendering the sites unreachable. These are known as DoS or “denial of service” attacks.

Two of the country’s major companies likely to be targeted during the attack – Israel’s Bank Hapoalim and the internet provider Bezeq Beinleumi, a subsidiary of the country’s oldest landline provider – are among the companies funding Thursday’s Cyber (K)night event in Jerusalem.