By Samuel Sokol, 5TJT.com
The website of the Five Towns Jewish Times newspaper was defaced on Saturday. The hacker, a self-identified Turkish Muslim calling himself Sehul-Islam, posted a video attacking former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as well as a picture of American and Israeli flags burning side by side.
The hack was discovered Saturday night as readers attempted to visit the website.
There was a lengthy Turkish text posted to the site’s homepage. Portions of the text that were in English seem to indicate a religious motivation for the defacement. A pop-up window stated "Muslim turkish hacker" and "The dirt Israil and America," while the homepage contained the phrases “Islam Was Were [sic]," and “ALLAHU AKBARRR!” The Turkish text itself was formatted in a way that indicated a quotation from a religious work.
The internet has increasingly become a battleground in both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the war against terror.
In 2008 a Muslim hacker posted an anti-Semitic message on the website of the Bank of Israel. The message read "Listen to me Jews - you are a nation whose fate has been decreed… we will kick you out," it continued "Millions of young Muslims are ready to die for the sake of Al-Quds [Jerusalem]...”
This came on the heels of a self-identified Iraqi hacking into the website of Israel’s Army Radio.
In 2006 a group calling itself “Team Evil” hacked over 750 Israeli websites over a period of several hours in response to IDF operations in the Gaza Strip following the kidnapping of IDF Corp. Gilad Shalit.
The group explained their actions by stating “You’re killing Palestinians, we’re killing servers.”
Among the sites hacked were those belonging to Bank Otzar Hachayal, Rambam Hospital and Bank Hapoalim.
Terror groups are also becoming increasingly web-savvy in recent years. Groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and even the Taliban have a presence online.
In October, Evan Kohlman of the NEFA Foundation discovered and publicized the Taliban’s official YouTube channel, dubbed “Istiqlal Media.”
Hamas’ information section maintains a website at Qassam.ps. For a time Hezbullah was offering free email addresses at Hezbullah.org, until the site was shut down.
The state of Israel uses the internet for its public relations as well.
The office of the IDF spokesman maintains a blog and a YouTube channel. In October the IDF announced that it is now on the popular micro-blogging service Twitter (Twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson).
Twitter allows users to post short messages, each of which can be no longer than 140 characters. Twitter is an increasingly popular service and many high-profile political organizations such as Americans for Peace Now, Human Rights Watch and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs use Twitter as part of their PR efforts.
In a statement, the IDF explained that it “is utilizing the opportunities afforded by ‘new media’ platforms in order to improve accessibility to our information.”
In addition to its presence on Twitter, the IDF will soon establish a profile on the popular social networking site Facebook as well as creating a photostream on the popular photo sharing website Flickr.
The IDF is also looking for soldiers throughout the armed services who are interested in becoming contributers to the IDF blog, writing about their day to day experiences in the army.
The IDF has also begun reaching out to bloggers with a mailing list and press releases for new media personalities located in Israel.
On Tuesday President Peres announced the opening of his own YouTube channel at a press conference in Jerusalem, held jointly with Chad Hurley, the founder and current CEO of YouTube. Hurley came to Israel especially for this event.
Peres explained that the primary goal of his YouTube channel was to connect to citizens of Israel and the world. “I think, communication is one of the greatest things we have in our life. Let’s talk, let’s dream, let’s laugh in order to make our world better and our lives more meaningful. Let’s take advantage of my channel to be informal, talk person-to-person, and communicate like old acquaintances,” Peres stated.
At the end of the event YouTube Founder Chad Hurley presented the President with a dedicatory plaque of the original website source code.
Hurley expressed his pleasure with the way in which YouTube is “considered a vehicle for peace.”
However, in 2008, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn) sent a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt in which the Senator lambasted Google for breaking its own content guidelines in allowing terrorist videos to be posted to YouTube.
According to Lieberman, videos on YouTube "provide weapons training, speeches by al-Qaeda leadership, and general material intended to radicalize potential recruits."
In a related statement made at that time, Lieberman said that Google continues to allow the posting of videos by organizations the State Department has designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.”
Cyberwar is an emerging discipline in military circles. As with terrorism, cyberwar blurs the distinction between soldiers and noncombatants.
In 2007, hackers took down a large part of “the essential electronic infrastructure of the Republic of Estonia” as Jaak Aaviksoo, Estonian minister of defense told Wired magazine.
According to Wired, Aaviksoo stated that “All major commercial banks, telcos, media outlets, and name servers — the phone books of the Internet — felt the impact, and this affected the majority of the Estonian population. This was the first time that a botnet threatened the national security of an entire nation.”
Such attacks do not necessarily originate from military sources. During the unrest following the 2009 contested elections in Iran, hackers from around the world collaborated together against Iran in launching distributed denial of service attacks on the propaganda arms of Iran’s government.
According to Der Spiegel, Israeli agents planted a Trogan Horse on the computer of a Syrian official visiting London in 2006, which gave Israel intelligence necessary for its 2007 bombing of an alleged nuclear site.
It is hard to evaluate how well Israel’s intelligence community uses the internet. However, the same problems that plague Israel’s traditional media relations also dog its internet campaign. Different ministries and departments each formulate material for public consumption separately and there are frequently contradictions between statements by different bureaus.
David Appletree, founder of the Jewish Internet Defense Force has believes that "the mainstream Jewish community is behind the times when it comes to dealing with these threats or using social media effectively."
When asked for comment on how Jewish organizations have responded to increasing levels of hate online, Appletree told the Five Towns Jewish Times that "[mainstream organizations] claim to be doing things and they throw it in their many requests for more donations, but I don't see them active on this front...We have consistently offered to help and consult various organizations with their social media presences and have asked them to join us in our fight, but it seems they don't wish to get involved with things that are outside their scope."
By Samuel Sokol, 5TJT.com