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JERUSALEM, Israel – The Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas, the de facto rulers of the impoverished Gaza Strip, is stepping up its cyber operations against Israel. And it is time for Western countries, including the US, to take such threats more seriously, finds a recent report published by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.

According to the report written by non-resident fellow Simon Handler, while the US focuses its cyber security concerns on the “Big Four” nation-state adversaries – China, Russia, Iran and North Korea – non-state actors are becoming increasingly organized and skilled in cyber warfare

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Hamas, a designated terrorist organization according to the US, is an obvious test case for such groups and, Handler writes, “is an emerging and capable cyber actor.”

Handler highlights how Hamas, which has fought numerous wars with Israel and carried out countless terrorist attacks against its own citizens, has not shifted its overall goals – what it sees as the illegitimate state of Israel. and establishes an Islamic, Palestinian state. The place – rather now has used advanced hi-tech terrorist options in its fight.

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“In other words, offensive cyber operations are just a new way for Hamas to do old things better,” the report said, “urging the policy community to think differently about what it How does it approach non-state groups that can take advantage of the cyber domain?” Future.”

“I think the US and everyone else should be concerned because terrorists are using the Internet,” commented Brigadier General (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior researcher at the Israel Defense and Security Forum, in an interview with Fox News Digital. Of. “What Hamas does against Israel can be done against other terrorist groups and other targets.”

The report states that “a strong online presence is essential for modern terrorist organizations. They rely on the Internet to recruit members, fund operations, motivate target audiences, and attract attention on a global scale – maintaining organizational relevance.” All major functions to keep up and survive.”

Kuperwasser, a former head of the Israeli military’s Military Intelligence Assessment Division, said cyber warfare offered terrorist groups the opportunity to inflict widespread damage with minimal risk. And, he said, Hamas has already conducted some “very impressive” operations in the cyber sphere.

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Palestinian Hamas gunmen during a rally to mark the anniversary of the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza City, Gaza.

“They can cause real harm and eventually, out of many attempts, one of them can be successful,” he said. ,[Israel] There are great countermeasures, this is one area where we excel. But in cyber, when you are on the receiving end, even if you manage to thwart many attempts against you, it is not foolproof.”

Israel has long claimed that Hamas’ cyber capabilities pose an increasingly serious threat. In May 2021, during an intense period of fighting with Hamas, Israel drew global condemnation for destroying a tower block in Gaza that housed the offices of The Associated Press and other media. The Israeli military later said that the 11-story Al-Jala building also houses the Islamic terrorist group’s electronic warfare site.

The Atlantic Council also cites the example of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia when Israeli soldiers at an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) base watched matches on an app on their smartphones. The Android app, Golden Cup, which was downloaded for free from the Google Play store, was, in fact, malware that surreptitiously monitored the target’s device and stole sensitive information.

Earlier, in 2017, Hamas used several fake Facebook accounts to connect with youth recruits in an attempt to gain access to sensitive army information. Dozens of soldiers, mostly from combat units, were tricked into chatting with what they believed were young, attractive women in Israel and abroad, while Hamas tapped vital data on their phones. had reached.

Joe Truzman, research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told Fox News Digital, “Hamas’ cyber capabilities have become increasingly sophisticated and have expanded to target not only Israel, but other countries deemed hostile.” sees as.” “Over the past decade, Hamas and other Palestinian militant organizations have recognized the cyberspace as an important area for weaponization and have gradually developed sophisticated methods to counter Israel.”

Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

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Last month, on its Telegram channel, Hamas published a tribute to the man who set up the group’s cyber unit eight years ago. In the announcement, the group said it was “keeping pace with scientific and technological developments and inventing new methods to confront the Zionist enemy (Israel) throughout its “jihadist history,” according to Israeli news channel i24. told.

While the Atlantic Council report calls Hamas “green hat hackers”, a group relatively new to the hacking world that lacks sophistication, it determines that it is “fully committed to making an impact and on the way”. Eager to learn.”

“Hamas has demonstrated steady improvements in its cyber capabilities and operations over time, particularly in its espionage operations against internal and external targets,” the report said. “At the same time, the improvisation of organization, the deployment of relatively unsophisticated equipment, and attempts to influence bystanders are hallmarks of all terrorist strategies.”

“The recently disclosed cyber unit of Hamas poses a threat against Israel,” Truzman said. “There were indications in 2019 that the Israel Defense Forces recognized this as a threat when it bombed a site in the Gaza Strip used by Hamas for cyber operations.

“One of the most important elements of Hamas’ capabilities is the ability to recruit spies in Israel for cyber operations,” he said, highlighting a recent incident in which three Israelis transferred sensitive data to Hamas in Turkey. were caught doing.