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June 3, 2016 5:03 pm

Pro-BDS Websites Being Targeted by Widespread, Systematic Cyber Attacks; Cybersecurity Firms Stumped by Identity of Attackers

avatar by Lea Speyer

Pro-BDS websites are coming under cyber attack by unknown sources. Photo: Ministry of Defense Georgia.

Pro-BDS websites are coming under cyber attack by unknown sources. Photo: Ministry of Defense Georgia.

Cyber-security companies are working to uncover the culprits in a range of cyber attacks against anti-Israel websites, VICE News reported on Thursday.

According to the report, websites affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are being targeted with various techniques aimed at taking them offline, including Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, in what appears to be a widespread, targeted campaign. The systematic attacks against the websites were uncovered by Canadian-based cybersecurity firm Deflect Labs, which offers its free services to protect the websites of independent media, human rights organizations and activists from cyber attacks.

According to a brief released by the firm on Thursday, the attacks show “a level of sophistication and commitment not generally seen on the Deflect network.” The firm has received some $500,000 in funding from the Canadian government.

In one instance, hackers targeted the main website for the Palestinian BDS National Committee — — with a DDoS attack, using tens of thousands of IP addresses to send a large surge of traffic, overloading the website and thereby shutting it down. DDoS attacks, VICE notes, “are generally considered to be more of a nuisance than an outright declaration of war…but for small activist groups like those that make up the BDS movement, a targeted DDoS attack could be ruinous.”

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Reacting to Deflects findings, Mahmoud Nawajaa, general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, said in a statement on Thursday:

These latest cyber-attacks against BDS seem to be part of a full-fledged Israeli war on the movement that includes McCarthyite legal repression, use of intelligence services and yet more funding for ‘brand Israel’ propaganda. These attacks smack of Israel’s despair at its growing isolation around the world, after failing for years to stem the growing support for the nonviolent BDS movement as a strategic and effective means to achieve Palestinian rights under international law.

Deflect said that while it was unable to prove all the attacks originated from the same source, they were able to link some of the attacks together.

The BDS movement has become a major source of concern for the government of Israel. In February, the Associated Press revealed that the Israeli government allocated $26 million to combat anti-Israel activity online. “I want to create a community of fighters,” said Sima Vaknin-Gil, the director general of Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

On Tuesday, 1,500 people gathered at the UN in opposition to the BDS movement at the Ambassadors Against BDS International Summit. At the event, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said the main goal of the BDS movement is “bringing an end to the Jewish state” and called the movement “the true face of modern antisemitism.”

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