Cyber wars have become the most important factor in any military conflict. As military conflicts advance and develop based on electronic and technological elements, the interest in hackers, that represent the weaker party, increases. It is a direct relationship to try to catch up with the party that has all the reasons for technological progress.
The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas is a strong example of this conflict. The confrontations between Israel and the Hamas movement are not only taking place on the ground but also in the virtual world, which is witnessing an intensification of cyber-attacks, which support and achieve good combat successes for the military operation that the two parties are waging.
Hamas introduced its cyber unit to serve the war it is waging against Israel from the first second of its attacks, which it carried out on October 7th. Along with the storming and bombing, it launched a huge torrent of cyber-attacks on large military targets and service facilities. However, the Tel Aviv cyber apparatus began its work late, after days of bloody fighting.
According to what was published by Israeli websites concerned with military affairs, the cyber-attacks began before the first salvo of rocket shells were fired from the Gaza Strip, and mainly targeted the operational systems of the “Iron Dome” missile interception and defense system. These hacks succeeded in halting its operation for more than five hours. During this time, Hamas was able to launch 5,000 rocket shells in 20 minutes, all of which landed in Israeli territory without any interception being recorded.
While the Al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of the Hamas movement) confirm this, Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hageri does not deny this talk, but evades, saying, “About 2,560 rocket shells fell on Israel in the first minutes. The interception systems were paralyzed on this day.”
During their control of Iron Dome, Hamas succeeded in hacking the siren applications that send notifications to Israelis of missile attacks and imminent danger. They disabled them completely during the periods of missile attacks and broadcast written messages through them, such as “Death to Israel” and “The nuclear bomb is coming.” In addition, Hamas deleted these applications from the Google Store.
What interests Israel most are the mechanisms of Hamas fighters to penetrate the borders, obtain accurate information about military barracks, access the server room in one of the Israeli army centers, and move into the cities adjacent to Gaza with complete freedom.
The Israeli Cyber Security Service believes that Hamas has carried out a campaign of hidden penetrations into state agencies and collected information before the war, or relied on drones for reconnaissance purposes to collect this information and obtain accurate and detailed maps.
During the days of fighting, Hamas harnessed its cyber unit to serve the war, directing cyber-attacks that penetrated an unknown number of reconnaissance drone systems that were on missions inside Gaza’s airspace. They succeeded in controlling them and were able to fly them in the opposite direction towards Israel or bring some of them down to the ground and control them.
The cyber-attacks disrupted the websites of the Shin Bet Security Agency and the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. The access address to the Israeli army website was taken out of service. However, it is not clear how much these hacks affected them or if their perpetrators obtained any information or deleted data.
Hamas launched a cyberattack campaign against Israel, targeting its Iron Dome, warning applications, drones, and military websites. The attack aimed to paralyze the Israeli defense system and support the war that Hamas started against Tel Aviv.
The cyberattacks were not limited to the military sector but also affected various Israeli facilities. Hamas hackers were able to stop or disrupt more than 100 websites, including the Israeli government website, some Israeli banks and universities, the Israeli Post Office, and the Hebrew Newspaper the Jerusalem Post.
The hackers also penetrated the Israeli Hydroelectric Power Plant, the Israeli Independent Electricity Operator, and the Israeli Electricity Company.
On the other hand, Israel’s cyber teams retaliated by disrupting the website of the National Bank of Palestine, the website of the Hamas movement, Alpha Net (the largest internet provider in the Strip), and the telecommunications company.
But the story did not end there. Until October 7, the Iron Dome system was one of the most important missile defense systems of the Israeli army and one of Israel’s proudest military achievements. It boosted Israel’s military profit in recent years and enabled it to sign a billion-dollar deal with Germany to sell the Iron Dome system and Arrow 3 missiles designed to intercept ballistic missiles. This deal put Israel’s military technology on the list of weapons-exporting countries after the United States of America and Russia.
However, after this turning point in Israel’s history, October 7, the situation changed. On the eve of this day, several surveillance and protection systems and sensors were attacked and malfunctioned. The Israeli radars that were supposed to detect the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation were paralyzed.
This was the final blow to this Israeli operational system. The Al-Aqsa flood exposed the inability of this defense system to confront the thousands of missiles that were fired at it. The Al-Aqsa flood destroyed what was known as the “golden age” of Israeli military industry companies, especially those that manufactured this system. Until last year, Iron Dome was the most profitable for Israel through signing military deals with several countries, but all of this will certainly change in the coming days.
Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University