As Israel continues its military campaign inside the Gaza Strip for the 12th consecutive day to cripple Hamas' ability to shoot rockets into its territory, both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian hacker groups have taken up the fight online.
According to vnunet.com, there have been myriad attacks on Web sites rumored to have any involvement with Israel.
According to reports, thousands of sites mainly belonging to small businesses have been breached.
Some very high profile sites, such as Ynetnews.com, were also hacked to display items such as a step-by-step picture guide to the progressive takeover of Palestinian land by settlers, and the alleged torture of detainees by American soldiers and Palestinian victims of Israeli attacks.
Hackers also attacked the Bank Discount web site leaving anti-Israeli messages, but did not access any accounts.
On the other side, the New York City Independent Media Center reports a pro-Palestinian activist using Facebook to spread news of demonstrations and post articles had her profile hacked. The hackers replaced her profile picture with an the "IDF" signia, which in this case did not stand for the Israel Defense Forces but the Jewish Internet Defense Force. Under the profile picture, her status bar (a text box that displaced what a user is up to or is feeling) read "Report the hackers. Click here!" A friend of hers did just that, but it was ruse and she was locked out of Facebook. Much like her friend, the reporter's profile picture has been changed to the same IDF insignia.
"Recently we have been witnessing a rise of politically motivated hacking attacks by supporters on both sides involved in military actions in Gaza,"Bojan Zdrnja blogged at the SANS Internet Storm Center . "This was more or less expected, whenever two sides collide there will be people supporting them, even through various attacks on the Internet."
These actions are known as hacktivism or "the nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of political ends," says the Web site of Alexandra Samuel, whose PhD dissertation at Harvard University examined the phenomenon. "These tools include web site defacements, redirects, denial-of-service attacks, information theft, web site parodies, virtual sit-ins, virtual sabotage, and software development."
But even those wanting to participate on one side or the other in this electronic struggle need to worry about deception, warns Zdrnja. One Web site he examined, www.help-israel-win.com, asked visitors "supporting Israel to download and install a file from the site (called PatriotInstaller.exe) that will help disrupt their enemy's efforts."
After analyzing the program's code, Zdrnja says he cannot say whether its creator has any malign intent, but he did say that the 1,000 machines running the program could be taken over by the creator if he wishes to.
Zdrnja's advice: "In any case, and as always – be careful what you download and run on your machine, especially if it's coming from unknown sources that you can't trust."