Cyber Strategies for a World at War

OPEN SOURCE AGGREGATION & ANALYSIS

Offering protection in the new cyber war

By David Shamah
January 07, 2009
ISRAEL21c

While Hamas rockets disrupt Israeli life in the Negev, supporters of the terror group are fighting against Israel on another front – over the Internet. Groups of sophisticated hackers, with names like Moroccan Hackers, Islamic Crew, and Iran Black Hats, have been working overtime to “own” Israeli web sites, using them to send messages protesting the Israel Defense Force’s operation in Gaza, chalking up a “cyber-victory” against Israel.

Lucky we have David Allouch, CTO of Israeli security company AppliCure Technologies, on our side. Allouch has been on both sides of the cyber war – a former “black hat” hacker who attacked business and government sites in his native France, now helping protect Israeli sites from the onslaught of hacker teams around the world, determined to hack Israeli sites.

Today, most businesses and individuals have plenty of protection on their computer networks – including firewalls, e-mail spam catchers, anti-virus programs, etc. – so hackers bent on computer mischief don’t concentrate on those installations. Instead, they go for the one “door” that remains open for data from the outside – a company’s web server, which hosts web pages, applications, and databases.

Web site programmers use one of several popular site server software (Apache, Microsoft IIS, etc.), which allow users to interact with sites and site designers to set up things like streaming music and video, as well as logging, site security, and other “back end” stuff. Hackers work endlessly to exploit weaknesses in the server software, and when they find such weaknesses, they’re quick to develop an “exploit” to take advantage of it.

Hackers insert new content

Once a weakness is discovered, the programmers responsible for the hole issue a fix to close the security hold. But not all web programmers get the memo – so there are lots of sites out in cyberspace that have old weaknesses that haven’t been repaired, and it’s these sites the hackers attack. Using an automatic attack script – a bot – hackers can parse thousands of sites in a short time, looking for sites to take over. And when they find them, those sites can be compromised, with the most common exploit being a change in the home page by hackers, where they insert their own content.

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