Guess what, everybody? Arabs and Israelis have found a new way to hate each other. Since the turn of the year, a hacking war has been taking place in the Middle East. The conflict was primarily ignited by two guys: one called "0xOmar," who's battling for Saudi Arabia and claims to be from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, and another called (confusingly) "OxOmer," aka Omer Cohen, an IDF soldier and proud Israeli. Between them, these two men have been leading newly-formed legions of keyboard warriors in a rush and a push to spill the other side's credit card details all over the web and generally make their lives as tedious and annoying as possible.
Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the internet, the trash talk has been rife. Last week, following a report that some Saudis are now too scared to use cashpoints in their own country, 0xOmar described how he would "finish Israel electronically." He also boasted about having hundreds of thousands of peoples' credit card details stowed away for ammunition, suggesting he could drop the motherload any time he wanted. Which is exactly what he did. OxOmer hit back, posting thousands of Saudi card details online, describing his retributive attack as a “deterrent.” It wasn't a very good one.
Last Thursday, the websites of the Tel Aviv stock exchange and El Al (Israel's national airline) were brought down by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks carried out by Saudi hackers. Soon after, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, quietly but firmly declared that any further online assaults would be treated as acts of terrorism. The Jewish newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth got a bit carried away with this statement, and ran a report claiming that Israel "could blow up the houses of Saudi hackers electronically via the internet". So is 0xOmar shitting himself? "NEVER!," he spat, when a Palestinian blog put the question to him. "I don't think about it even for a minute!" What a guy.
This is the Middle East, so revenge for 0xOmar's big mouth had to come, and sure enough, shortly after the DDoS attacks some Israeli hackers (known as "IDF-Team") took down the Saudi and UAE stock exchange websites. The two sides have continued to trade blows, and thousands of peoples' banking and credit details have been splattered all over pastebin.com. Most of the hackers have been happy to lurk anonymously, but others are more flamboyant, like one from the Israeli side known as "Hannibal."
"The Arabs should learn a lesson and know not to mess with me," he declared. "Jewish people named me as the general of Israel's hackers. I have about 30 million email accounts, ten million bank accounts, four million credit cards of Arabs from all over the world. I received thousands of emails from Arabs who are begging me to stop publishing their bills and hurt them." All these quotes are [gic], by the way, these guys have zero appreciation for grammar.
The powers-that-be have attempted to deal with the ongoing "hacks of attrition" with some PR-spun damage control. So, despite Israel equating the incidents with terrorism, the Saudis have outright denied that any of this is going on and neither country can do enough to make clear that major credit card companies and banking databases being breached isn't really that much of a problem. Which I guess it isn't, if you're so rich that you think the West Bank is a room you've yet to locate in your palace and the House of Saud is a department store a few rungs down from John Lewis.
Illustration by Cei Willis