By Alexandra Burlacu | Nov 17, 2012 09:48 AM EST
Hacktivist group Anonymous has launched a broad hacking campaign called #OpIsrael against a number of Israeli Web sites in protest of attacks on Gaza.
The hacking spree has resulted in countless Israeli Web sites defaced or shut down altogether through various hacking methods, including distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
On Friday, Nov. 16, hackers stepped up attacks on Israeli Web sites, and targets include governmental sites such as Israel's Foreign Ministry site and the municipal Web site for Tel Aviv. Some enterprising hacktivists have started to compile lists of affected sites. In addition to governmental institutions, targets also included retail and businesses, some belonging to the automotive and fashion industries. According to the group, the attacks are in retaliation of the Israeli military strikes on Hamas on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
The cyber attacks come as the Israeli army is updating its Web campaign to add "achievements" and "badges" for regular visitors.
Anonymous said it launched the #OpIsrael campaign after the Israeli government threatened to cut all of Gaza's telecommunication links.
"We are ANONYMOUS and NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch," the group said in a statement posted on the AnonRelations Web site, noting that cutting telecommunication links "crossed a line in the sand."
The hacktivist group warned the Israeli government not to cut off telecom and Web links, and requested that the government ended operations in Gaza. If the attacks continued, Israel would feel Anonymous' "full and unbridled wrath."
A few hours after posting the statement, Anonymous published a list of 87 Web sites it claimed to have defaced or attacked as part of OpIsrael. The homepages on many of the affected sites were also replaced with messages in support of Hamas and the Palestinians.
One of Israel's largest financial institutions, the bank of Jerusalem, has enjoyed special attention from the hacktivist group. Anonymous deleted the organization's online database, and trying to access the bank's Web site following the attack returned nothing but a database error.
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site appears to have been targeted as well, and its database has been either deleted or tampered with. Hundreds of Web sites have been affected, and the numbers keep rising.
Some of the file dumps contain the full names, email addresses and password of Web site users, all taken from breached databases.
"Like all the other evil governments that have faced our rage, you will NOT survive it unscathed," Anonymous warned the Israeli government.
At the same time the Anonymous attacks were being carried out, the BBC notes, the Israeli Defense Force re-started tools on its blog to reward people for repeated visits and interacting with the Web site. The tools are called IDF Ranks, and add a "game" element to the blog to reward repeated visitors with points. Visitors get a virtual military rank once they have gained enough points. Going 10 times on the site would get visitors a "consistent" badge, while doing a lot of searching would reward users with the "research officer" rank.
The army said the rank system was briefly turned off as its social media sites had generated very heavy traffic. On Wednesday, Nov. 14, it started streaming a live feed about its military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.