Update — 4/2/15: For more information on OpIsrael, please see Hackers Directly Threaten Individual Israeli Citizens.
What has become an annual cyber campaign against Israel, “OpIsrael” – which coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day in previous years – is once again taking place this year; this time, by a broader coalition of hackers than ever before.
In light of the uptick in attacks against Jewish institutional websites in the U.S. by international hacking groups over the past few years, both Israeli and Jewish websites worldwide are expected to be targets of the cyber campaign.
In 2014, “OpIsrael” was primarily led by an Arab sub-division of Anonymous, which called for a cyber-attack against Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day, threatening to launch “electronic attacks against as many Israeli websites as possible.” The group also threatened Israeli citizens: “Your credit cards, your bank accounts, your servers … are ALL in a danger!” In 2013, the group called for a similar campaign timed with Holocaust Remembrance Day to “wipe Israel off the Internet.”
This year, the Arab sub-division of Anonymous, in one of the videos it posted on YouTube, described “OpIsrael,” as an “Electronic Holocaust.”
There are strong indications, however, that AnonGhost, a prominent hacker group known for targeting Jewish and American websites, is seeking to replace Anonymous in spearheading “OpIsrael.”
For example, earlier this month, AnonGhost launched and promoted software enabling users to conduct cyber-attacks against Israeli (and other) targets. The software appears to enable users to initiate denial of service (DOS) attacks. AnonGhost has already claimed responsibility for the hacking of several Israeli websites in the past week in the lead up to “OpIsrael.”
On March 31, AnonGhost members claimed that they started messaging Israeli citizens with warnings about OpIsrael. The threatening messages included an image of an ISIS fighter with the caption, "We are coming O Jews to kill you." Under the image, AnonGhost members introduce themselves and ask the recipients to deliver the warning to the Israeli government.
By injecting itself into “OpIsrael,” AnonGhost may take the campaign into a more extreme direction. For example, AnonGhost has been unambiguous about supporting ISIS and has carried out hacks on its behalf. This activity differs from the Anonymous collective, which has launched cyber-campaigns to counter ISIS’ online presence. In January 2015, for example, theylaunched a campaign against Jihadist websites titled OpCharlieHebdo in response to terrorist attacks in France.
There are indications that AnonGhost and the broader Anonymous collective have even engaged in a cyber-conflict against each other; Mauritania Attacker, the ostensible leader of AnonGhost, claims to have hacked a group of Anonymous members known as “Anonymous Squad No.035,” the Serbian sub-division of Anonymous.
The apparent conflict between AnonGhost and the Anonymous collective, however, does not seem to have prevented them both from participating in this year’s “OpIsrael.” Opposition to Israel seems to be a common cause.
It is important to note that ADL is currently unaware of any specific cyber threat to the American Jewish community. Nevertheless, we are urging Jewish communities to revisit and reassess their cyber-security plans, measures, and procedures.