By Arab News
By Ali Bluwi
I asked a friend of mine, a Ph.D., Canadian engineer who is specialized in the security of cyber information, to clarify the saga of hacker OxOmar who went after the Israeli credit card holders and managed to penetrate an Israeli bank with the purpose to insult them. In a prompt reply, my friend told me that the hacker was not Saudi. Most probably, the hacker is an Israeli one because Israeli information security had previously accused one of its recruited employees of messing up with information.
My friend elaborated on the issue telling me how hackers work. In response to my question about the possible protection of networks and servers, he said that no thorough protection was possible and hackers always had huge capabilities to overcome obstacles. Interestingly, their ability to do so is being facilitated by big specialized companies who leave a margin for hackers to mess up so that they can justify presenting new cyber security products.
The story aroused my curiosity to read some foreign specialized studies on hackers and cyber war. It transpired that the war does exist between companies and the intelligent forces. Despite losses, companies benefit. According to my Canadian friend, the problem is not about the ability of hackers to cope with new advancements. Some of them do not have the intention to destroy but to have negative impact. They seek to inundate servers with a huge amount of letters to cripple it. This is called buffer overflow. Therefore, it is not a matter of protection as each security system has some security exploits that enable hackers to infiltrate the system. There are three types of hackers. The first is the white hat hackers and it is positive. A second one carries the name black hat hackers or crackers and it is destructive. The third one is known as gray hat hacker and it gyrates between reform and messing up.
The expert confirms that no one on the earth is capable of locating the place of hacker. For instance, a hacker can penetrate a computer or a server in Philippines to pass to Australia. From there, he can attack a target in Israel or in America. The hackers can always delete the traces and log out. He can log in again and do similar things. The expert said that as long as you have a big team of hackers, you could prevail over your opponent.
I recall two stories. The first one when France sought to know the amount of money for the French people in Switzerland after many of them smuggled their money abroad. Due to account secrecy, Switzerland refused a French request to provide Paris with a record of their accounts. Yet, a French hacker managed to have access to their accounts in Switzerland and got a list of all names and the amount of money. The hacker sold this valuable information to the French government.
The expert alluded to the Bushehr nuclear power plant incident. The nuclear reactor was stopped thanks to the incident. For a couple of weeks, Iranians were confused, as they had no clue to what had happened. Had the reactor been working, and then iron metal would have suddenly melted thus creating a huge problem. Also, a hacker managed to hit a power plant in New York and forced it to live in a complete black out.
The second story is about the United States’ attempts to spy on China lest China would develop the science of cyber. An American plane took off from South Korea and flew close to the Chinese border. A Chinese pilot came close to the American plane and hit its wing thus forcing the American plane to land in China. In no time, the Chinese discovered its entire secrets and managed to affect the American satellites. It was then the Americans realized that they would lose if they continued the war game with China. The ability of China to mess up with American satellites meant a paralysis in American military capabilities as almost 98 percent of it depends on satellites.
The Canadian expert argued that Iran and Hezbollah are only second to Israel in cyber war in the region. He strongly believed that OxOmar was not Saudi as preliminary information stated that the perpetrator was an Israeli soldier recruited by Hezbollah.
What is the fault of the Saudi for this cyber attack, and what is the objective behind this case? Why did the hacker leave behind him clues to point to Saudi Arabia, especially when he could have left no trace whatsoever? If the cyber war is secret, one wonders why the hacker chose the name OxOmar and not Rudolf for instance. Also, why the Israeli financial official said that the Saudis have penetrated Israel with the purpose to insult Israel?
No doubt, there are young people with profound knowledge in this field. Some of them adopt an ideology to hurt others. Moroccans, for instance, view themselves as cyber holy warriors. Yet, at this juncture, we would like to know who has the interest in conveying a message (the ability to wage a cyber war) to both Israel and the United States. We also wonder if there is a link between this and the fact the Iran provided Damascus with 40 experts in information security and whether they played a role in this recent cyber attack. The selection of the name OxOmar cannot be more striking. Perhaps the hackers tried to make a link between Ox and the AWACS plane that Saudi Arabia owns. Also the name Omar is one that is hated by Iranians! Can we consider the cracker the Syrian equivalent of Shabiha (gangs and thugs who attack Syrian civilians)? Finally, we wonder if states should establish new specialized units of electronic army to defend their interests. I think that a cyber army is a strategic decision that should be considered.