* Deputy foreign minister sees bid to "silence" Israel
* Attacks deepen jitters after credit card data theft
(Recasts with Israeli ministers, banks, Hamas praise)
By Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM, Jan 16 Hackers disrupted online
access to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, El Al Airlines
and three banks on Monday in what the government described as a
cyber-offensive against Israel.
The attacks came just days after an unidentified hacker,
proclaiming Palestinian sympathies, posted the details of
thousands of Israeli credit card holders and other personal
information on the Internet in a mass theft.
Stock trading and El Al flights operated normally despite
the disruption, which occurred as Israeli media reported that
pro-Palestinian hackers had threatened at the weekend to shut
down the TASE stock exchange and airline Web sites.
While apparently confined to areas causing only limited
inconvenience, the attacks have caused particular alarm in a
country that depends on high-tech systems for much of its
defence against hostile neighbours. Officials insist, however,
that they pose no immediate security threat.
"They have demanded an apology for Israel's defensive
measures," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on his
Facebook page, alluding to the conflict with Palestinians.
"I am using this platform to send a clear message that ...
they will not silence us on the Internet, or in any forum."
The First International Bank of Israel (FIBI) and
two subsidiary banks, Massad and Otzar Hahayal, said their
marketing sites had been hacked but that sites providing online
services to clients were unaffected.
Israel's third-largest bank, Discount, said it had
been spared attack, but that it was temporarily shutting down
foreign access to its website as a precaution.
The Tel Aviv bourse website could only be accessed
intermittently, but screen-based trading was not hit.
"There has been an attack by hackers on the access routes to
the website," said Orna Goren, deputy manager of the exchange's
marketing and communications unit. "The stock exchange's trading
activities are operating normally."
El Al said it had taken precautions to protect the company
site and warned of possible disruptions to its online activity.
There was no claim of responsibility for Monday's incidents.
However, the Islamist group Hamas, which governs the small
Palestinian territory of Gaza, welcomed the attacks as a blow
against the Jewish state, which it refuses to recognise.
"This is a new field of resistance against the Occupation
and we urge Arab youth to develop their methods in electronic
warfare in the face of (Israel's) crimes," Hamas spokesman Sami
Abu Zuhri said in Gaza.
Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein told a
conference in Tel Aviv that the cyber attacks were part of a
wider move to smear the country's reputation and "threaten
Israel's economic stability and security".
"It's another episode in the war our enemies are conducting
as a campaign of delegitimisation to hit our pockets and
lifestyle," he said, in reported comments confirmed by his
"Israel must use all measures at its disposal to prevent
these virtual dangers from turning into real threats and to
prevent with all its force attacks against it and its
institutions. Today it's credit card theft and toppling Web
sites, and tomorrow it could be theft of security information
and harm to infrastructure."
Israel opened an agency to tackle cyber attacks earlier this
month. A founding member of the unit, Isaac Ben-Israel, said the
country's most vital systems were already protected, but that
incidents like the ones seen recently would only increase.
"As long as the systems are not guarded, any hacker anywhere
in the world can break into them and do damage," Ben-Israel said
on Israel Radio. "I believe that, done right, in a year or two,
we will be able to wipe out all these hackers' threats."
(Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Steven Scheer in
Jerusalem, Tova Cohen in Tel Aviv and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza;
Editing by Crispian Balmer and Alastair Macdonald)