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Israeli Web Sites Crash

October 26, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Several Israeli Web sites containing the government’s perspective on the Mideast conflict crashed after Islamic groups abroad jammed them with fake traffic, Israeli officials said Thursday.

The cyberattack was the most intense since Israel’s government launched its Internet sites several years ago, and opens a new front in Israel’s confrontation with the Arab world.

Palestinian rioters have been clashing with Israeli forces for almost a month. At a weekend summit, Islamic countries condemned Israel and called for cutting relations with the Jewish state.

Both sides are emphasizing the public relations aspect of their conflict. Interest in the Israeli government Web sites has increased noticeably since the violence began Sept. 28, officials said. The targeted sites provide information about the conflict from an official Israeli point of view.

The first shot in the cyberwar was apparently fired by some Israeli teen-agers, who bragged to a local newspaper last week that they had sabotaged a Web site of the Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Return fire was not long in coming.

Uri Noy, who oversees the Foreign Ministry’s Web site, said several extremist Islamic Web sites called on their users to attack Israeli sites. Those groups, Noy said, provided users with computer programs that automate attacks by flooding sites with e-mail sent through a Web link.

The attacks are similar in concept to ones that crippled Yahoo!, CNN and other sites in the United States and caused tens of millions of dollars in losses earlier this year.

``It’s too bad that the Internet has become another battleground,″ said member of parliament Michael Eitan, the Knesset Internet expert. ``We need to have a cease-fire on the Web.″

First, the official site of the Israeli prime minister’s office went down. After that site was restored, the Foreign Ministry’s Web site was overwhelmed by incoming mail and knocked off the Web. Almost two days after the attack began, the site had still not been restored.

The Israeli army repaired its information Web site, and to increase security, switched from a local server to one connected to the U.S. communications giant AT&T, the military said.

The Web site of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was the target of a different kind of cyberattack. Hackers broke into the site and tampered with its files, Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes said. He said the attack may have come from Saudi Arabia.

An Israeli Internet service provider that hosts the three targeted sites scrambled to make repairs Thursday.

Israeli officials said no damage was done to sensitive computer systems used by the army and the government, since they are kept separate from the public Internet.

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