By Mouna Sadek
Moroccan and Algerian hackers launched a series of cyber-attacks against websites in both countries over the past few weeks, targeting state institutions and private companies. People are now speaking out against what they call a “crime” and are stressing that hackers should channel their abilities into more “worthwhile” activities.
The first attack occurred on November 6th, immediately after Moroccan King Mohammed VI gave a speech advocating reconciliation between the two countries. The speech was part of a series of events designed to repair relations between the neighbours.
The websites of Algerian public institutions including the Tax Directorate-General and the Algiers Stock Exchange were infiltrated by hackers who claimed to be Moroccan. The hackers posted a map of Greater Morocco and the Moroccan coats of arms with the country’s national motto, “God, the Homeland, the King”, and proclaimed: “the Sahara is Moroccan, whatever Algerians might think!”
Soon afterwards, on November 8th, Algerian hackers fired their own salvo by announcing that they had infiltrated 174 Moroccan websites.
The clash was a “waste of energy” for both countries, according to technology expert Abderrafik Khenifsa, director of IT Mag. “Morocco is a neighbour of Algeria, and always will be. It would be better for them to do something else: talk to each other,” he underlined in an interview published by the Quotidien d’Oran.
“These talents could be put to use in other areas and create jobs, and also to find out about and keep abreast of what is happening in the world,” he said. Khenifsa believes that these attacks are by no means comparable with movements such as “Anonymous”.
The security of websites in the Maghreb is weak. In Algeria’s case, the attacks highlight the need to create a body like the Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) in Morocco and Tunisia, or several teams for different categories of websites, such as government institutions, banks and private companies. Even though this kind of body can only intervene after an attack has taken place, it is needed to establish the circumstances and nature of the attack to prevent similar problems in future and to find out where it came from and what tools were used.
An Algerian hacker highlighted the extreme vulnerability of Algerian websites on the news site Tout sur l’Algérie. “If simple sleight of hand is enough to enable certain people to get hold of our bank details, the situation could be very dangerous for our country,” said a hacker who goes by the nickname Dfpirate Chitanus.
Algeria experienced a similar situation during the controversy that erupted during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers between Algeria and Egypt. Algerian hackers infiltrated the official website of the Egyptian Football Federation and posted an Algerian flag on it.