Israeli cyber security professionals band together amid Gaza war

WASHINGTON/LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) – As Israeli children listened to their teacher over Zoom, the image of a gun-toting man in fatigues appeared on the screen, according to a screenshot shared with Reuters. In another case, a video showed a billboard in the central Israeli city of Holon displaying images of rockets and a burning Israeli flag.

Israeli information security professionals are banding together to provide free cybersecurity services to Israeli companies amid a spike in hacktivist activity sparked by the war in Gaza, volunteers said.

Reuters could not independently verify the school incident. The screenshot was provided by Yossi Appleboum, the chief executive of cybersecurity company Sepio. Appleboum said he received the screenshot via a person in direct contact with the children’s families.

In a statement, Zoom said that it was “deeply upset” to hear about the disruption, and that it had offered its help to enable schools in Israel to continue operating remotely.

The video of the hacked billboard was first posted to the Telegram messaging service on Thursday morning. Check Point (CHKP.O), an Israel-based cybersecurity firm, said the billboard was one of at least two such public displays to have been hacked with “pro-Hamas and anti-Israel content”. Reuters was able to verify the location of the video as Holon.

Israel’s tech industry is – like the country as a whole – in flux, with many professionals being called up for military duty. The changeover has left new openings for mischief.

A disparate group of hacktivists claiming to act in support of the Palestinian people have attempted intrusions and sabotage efforts. Websites have been knocked offline and hackers have occasionally made off with stolen data, but the damage has so far been modest.

Ohad Zaidenberg, an Israeli IT specialist, is leading a group of volunteers to help Israeli companies that are being actively targeted.

“The Israeli cyber community is vast – and the mobilization is both effective and moving,” he said.

The organizers of the volunteers are drawing the line on members taking vigilante action against Hamas, said Omri Segev Moyal, the chief executive of the Israeli cybersecurity firm Profero.

Moyal, who runs a popular Facebook group for Israeli cybersecurity professionals, said he had already removed a couple of posts calling for digital action against the Palestinian group. He said he could understand the impulse – “people are mad” – but he believed vigilante action would backfire.

Moyal said Profero had been approached by the family of one of the people who went missing with a request to hack into the victim’s iCloud and phones in an effort to locate them.

“We refused,” he said. “We think it’s actually going to cause damage to the victims.”

Reporting by Raphael Satter and Christopher Bing in Washington, and James Pearson in London; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Award-winning reporter covering the intersection between technology and national security with a focus on how the evolving cybersecurity landscape affects government and business.

Reporter covering cybersecurity, surveillance, and disinformation for Reuters. Work has included investigations into state-sponsored espionage, deepfake-driven propaganda, and mercenary hacking.

Reports on hacks, leaks and digital espionage in Europe. Ten years at Reuters with previous postings in Hanoi as Bureau Chief and Seoul as Korea Correspondent. Author of ‘North Korea Confidential’, a book about daily life in North Korea. Contact: 447927347451