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French Version

Interface : Online conflict rages on

The recent escalation of Israel's offensive on the Palestinian people has also seen an escalation in their Internet wars.

JORDAN (Star) - Online wars have resumed, as if they ever stopped! Pro-Palestinian and Israeli sites have been under attack by hackers from both sides throughout the Intifada, since the the latter part of the year 2000. However, the recent escalation of Israel's offensive on the Palestinian people has also seen an escalation in their Internet wars.

News reports in the international media come out with headlines like, "Israel suffers escalating hack attacks," making out Israel to be the victim in this conflict. We all know the Palestinians are the real victims of Israel's recent assaults on the Palestinian people.

Quoting the popular website electronicintifada.com "1,443 Palestinians have been killed and 18,991 Palestinians have been injured in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between 29 September 2000 and 16 April 2002." They say that it could be an under estimation because of the difficulties to enter the attacked territories.

In any case, figures on the number of defacements to '.il' (Israel's Internet domain) sites are emerging. According to one report there have been 548 recent defacements, brining the total reported to 1,295 over the period July 1999 to mid-April 2002 inclusive. Some surveys break down the country sites that have been attacked into percentages, as follows: Israel 42%, Turkey (13%), Morocco (12%) and Egypt (12%); with the latter two being targeted by pro-Israeli hackers. More recent surveys show that, during the past two weeks, Israeli sites suffered 67% of the significant web defacements reported in the Middle East. However, contrary to what most of these reports insinuate, Israeli Web sites have not been the only ones to be attacked, and although few reports discuss the attacks on Palestinian and Arab sites, they have received their fair share.

Users attempting to reach 29 Web sites with Internet addresses ending in Gov.ps (the domain suffix for governmental sites of the Palestinian authority) were unable to access those sites. The unreachable sites included the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs at http://www.mopa.gov.ps , and the Government Computer Center at http://www.gcc.gov.ps and the Palestinian National Authority's official website, located at http://www.pna.net and hosted by Jerusalem-based Palnet Communications. In. At least one report I read stated "while all of Israel's primary government sites were readily accessible today, more than two dozen Palestinian government sites have been unreachable for days."

Users trying to access these and tens of other Palestinian sites are being re-directed to www.electronicintifada.com (which is hosted in Chicago, USA). The following message appears: "The operators of Palestinian sites are dealing with shoot-to-kill curfews, no electricity thanks to Israeli military cut-offs of the power, and other severe obstacles."

The Israel Government Gateway, located at http://www.info.gov.il , is accessible, as is the Web site for the Knesset, at http://www.knesset.gov.il, and the official site of Israel's Prime Minister at http://www.pmo.gov.il Apparently, sites have been disrupted by the Israeli invasion of Palestinian towns and have configured their domain name servers (DNS) temporarily to redirect visitors to the other foreign-based sites. According to statistics maintained by defacement archive Alldas.org, electronic vandals hit less than half as many Israeli Web sites in the first quarter of 2002 than were altered in the last three months of 2001.

Eighteen Web sites with addresses ending in "dot-il" were attacked in the first quarter of 2002, while 38 Israeli sites were defaced at the close of 2001, according to Alldas records. A spokesperson for a company called MI2G, who monitor international hacking attacks, summed it up by saying, "The tense situation in the Middle East is reflected in both covert and overt hack attacks. Historically, we have seen similar asymmetric attacks develop in the case of the NATO-Serbia war in April 1999, the China-Taiwan standoff in August 1999 and the US-China spy plane incident in April 2001."

MI2G also goes on to say that, "asymmetric warfare continues to be a barometer for political tensions around the world and in the Middle East. Other Middle Eastern countries- Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan- have also been hit in April by politically motivated hack attacks, many international in origin."

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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