More than 1,000 Israeli websites were hit by a coordinated cyber attack on Thursday, with the home pages replaced by images of the country’s commercial capital Tel Aviv in flames.
Israel’s National Cyber Directorate said private companies using a particular operating system were targeted, but said the damage was ‘superficial’.
It did not state the number of pages targeted but Israeli media reported it was more than 1,000, including those of major firms.
The pages were replaced with the slogan ‘the countdown to the destruction of Israel started long ago’.
A link led to a computer-generated video of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on fire, seemingly after a series of attacks. The image also showed a photoshopped picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swimming from the burning city to safety.
There were no immediate details on the group which claimed the attack called Hackers of Saviour, who also changed the page titles to ‘Be ready for a big surprise,’ along with the message: ‘The countdown of Israel destruction has begun since a long time ago [sic].’
Pictured: The image that appeared on thousands of Israeli websites depicted Tel Aviv in flames was put there by a hacker ground calling itself ‘Hackers of Savior’
A statement in the group’s only YouTube video – in broken English – said: ‘We gather here to take revenge of Zionists crimes against Palestinians who have dead or have lost their lifes, families and grounds.’
Visitors were asked by the website to allow access to their camera.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Avitar Gat, Digital Systems Operator at the Zeliger Shomron PR agency, warned: ‘This is a combined attack that tries not just to harm Israeli sites and to disturb the economy from operating.
‘[The cyber attack] also tries to gain personal information from users that enter these sites through control of the users’ cameras, which would allow the recording of personal information and pictures of thousands of Israelis,’ he added.
The Post said that the targeted sites included uPress, a WordPress hosting service, Bang and Olufsen Israel – a high-end sound system retailer, Bet Gabriet – a cultural center, Yad L’Ahim – an Orthodox Jewish religious organization and several religious Jewish high schools and post-high school programs.
The attack came a day before Israelis celebrate Jerusalem Day – signifying the country’s capture of the eastern part of the disputed city in 1967, and May 22 marks the 53rd anniversary of the capital’s reunification.
Iran, Israel’s long-time rival, also commemorates the day but highlights the Palestinian and Muslim connection to the holy city.
Head of the Cyber Intelligence Department at Checkpoint Software Technologies, explained that hackers across the Muslim world – including Turkey, North Africa and the Gaza Strip – organised attacks against Israeli sites on the day.
Speaking to 103 FM, an Israeli radio station, Amos Yadlin, executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies and former head of IDF Military Intelligence said: ‘We’ve all known for a decade already that cyber is the new dimension of war in the 21st century: This didn’t happen this week or last month.’
‘Israel tried to explain to Iran that in cyber they’re much more vulnerable than us and therefore it’s really worth it for them to keep civilian infrastructure outside of the conflict,’ he warned, adding that Israel has ‘additional abilities’ and that Iranians should think twice before attacking Israel with cyber attacks.
He went on to say that cyber attacks are only met with more cyber attacks.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, pictured, recently attacked the founding ideology of Israel – Zionism – drawing rebuke from Israel’s Prime Minister
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pictured, responded to Iran’s leader’s comments saying any nation that threatens Israel’s survival will ‘find itself in similar danger’
Animosity between the two nations has also flared in a war of words on Twitter.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently attacked Israel’s founding ideology Zionism, charging that Zionists have ‘been acting like a cancerous tumour, furthering their goals by massacring children, women and men’.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied Wednesday evening, saying Khamenei ‘should know that any regime that threatens Israel with extermination will find itself in similar danger’.
The attack on Israeli websites came days after a cyber attack on computer systems at an Iranian port was blamed on Israel, which according to the New York Times was itself in retaliation to an attack on Israeli water infrastructure, which allegedly took place on April 24.
The cyber attack on the Iranian port was meant to be a message from Israel, warning Iran not to target Israeli infrastructure.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an eight-hour visit to Israel last week, during which he accused Iran of using its resources to ‘foment terror’ even as its people face the Middle East’s deadliest novel coronavirus outbreak.
Pompeo also tweeted that ‘the United States condemns Supreme Leader Khamenei’s disgusting and hateful anti-Semitic remarks.
‘They have no place on Twitter or on any other social media platform.’
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pictured, condemned Khamenei’s comments about Zionism in a tweet
On Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah parked outrage after releasing an anti-Israel poster showing a conquered alongside the Nazi’s infamous ‘final solution’.
Khamenei has been accused of anti-Semitism after he shared the poster calling for the destruction of Israel on his official website in Farsi, Arabic and English.
The poster, which showed a ‘free’ Palestine and the late Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, was published alongside the message: ‘Palestine will be free. The final solution: Resistance is referendum.’
Published on Quds Day, an annual celebration in Iran held on the last Friday of Ramadan, the image showed people celebrating at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem alongside the ‘final solution’ term which refers to the mass genocide of Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The Iranian leader, who earlier this month said that the United States would be expelled from Iraq and Syria, has been in office since 1989.
The poster showed people celebrating a ‘free’ Palestine and the late Iranian general Qassem Soleimani