The Internet-based war between Israeli and Arab hackers heated up this week, solidifying the online space as the newest battlefield in the regional conflict.
As they proceeded to take down the Saudi Stock Exchange and other Arab financial websites, Israeli hackers declared themselves the new front-line warriors in defense of the Jewish state.
"They brought war, but we are better at this," one of the members of the Israeli hacker team known as "idf team" told Yediot Ahronot. Referencing Israel's prowess in various hi-tech fields, he noted that "Israel's largest export sector is made up of hackers."
Just hours earlier, idf team had managed to make good on its promise to black out the websites of the Saudi Stock Exchange and the Saudi foreign currency exchange market. The hackers said the move was a warning, and that the Saudi websites would only be brought down for one day. They also grabbed the credit card numbers and personal details of 5,000 Saudi citizens, but said they would not leak them at this time.
"We have no desire to hurt innocent people, so we see no reason to leak this information at this time," said one of the idf team members. "We are only trying to deter additional attacks against Israeli websites."
On Monday, a group of pro-Palestinian hackers known as "Nightmare" managed to bring down the websites of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, El Al and First International Bank of Israel. Earlier this month, a Saudi hacker using the handle "0xOmar" stole the credit card information of thousands of Israelis and leaked the details on the Internet, creating a brief panic in the Israeli financial sector.
0xOmar and Nightmare are now working together, and are determined to do as much harm to Israel as possible. "I'll keep attacking and publishing everything related to military or credit cards of normal people," 0xOmar said in an email to Israeli media. "I want to hurt Israel in any way possible."
A Jewish hacker known as "Hannibal" has warned that if 0xOmar and his cohorts do not back off, there will be painful reprisals. Already Hannibal has leaked the email details of thousand of Saudi citizens. "I am preparing huge surprises for the Arabs that are attacking Israel," Hannibal told Israeli media.
Israeli hacker "Prx3RO" and a team known as "Anonymous972" have also leaked the email and credit card details of thousands of Saudi and United Arab Emirates citizens in response to the attacks on Israeli websites.
In addition to expanding the Israeli-Arab conflict to an entirely new battlefield (previous hacker incidents had been few and far between), the current hacker war also represents a shift in the defensive and offensive mechanisms of both sides. The hacker war is being carried out by regular citizens, not soldiers or security professionals, and they are doing it solely out of national pride and a desire to defend their nation.
If it continues, the hacker war could transform the Israeli-Arab conflict into something that a much broader cross-section of society is actively involved in and which has a far greater impact on the day-to-day lives of the entire population.