JERUSALEM, Israel — Backed by Iran Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, the de facto rulers of the impoverished Gaza Strip, is stepping up its cyber activities against Israel. And it’s time for Western countries, including the United States, to take such threats more seriously, according to a report published recently by the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council.

According to the report, authored by non-resident Simon Handler, while the U.S. overwhelmingly focuses its cybersecurity concerns on the “Big Four” of adversarial nation states—China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — non-state actors are becoming more organized and effective in cyber warfare.

Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US, is a clear test case for what such groups are capable of and, as Handler writes, “is a new and capable cyber actor.”

Handler highlights how Hamas fought many wars with Israel and has carried out countless terrorist attacks against its own civilians, has not necessarily changed its overall goals – to eliminate what it considers the illegitimate state of Israel and establish an Islamic, Palestinian state in its place – but rather has now used advanced, high-tech terror options in its fight .


Israel says the cyber-warfare arm of the terror group Hamas poses a growing threat to the country.
(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files)

“In other words, offensive cyber operations are a new way for Hamas to do old things better,” the report said, urging “political communities to think differently about how they approach similar non-state groups that may use the cyber domain in the future “.

“I think the US and everybody else should be concerned because terrorists are using the Internet,” Brigadier General (Ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser, senior fellow at the Israel Defense and Security Forum, commented in an interview with Fox News Digital. “What Hamas is doing against Israel can be done by other terrorist groups and against other targets.”

The report notes that “a strong online presence is critical to today’s terrorist organizations. They rely on the Internet to recruit members, fund operations, educate target audiences, and gain global attention—all key functions to maintain organizational relevance and survival.”

Kuperwasser, the former head of the Israeli military’s military intelligence assessment division, said the realm of cyberwarfare gives terrorist groups the ability to inflict widespread damage with minimal risk. And, he said, Hamas has already conducted some “pretty impressive” cyber operations.


Palestinian armed fighters of Hamas during a rally in honor of the anniversary of the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza City, Gaza.

Palestinian armed fighters of Hamas during a rally in honor of the anniversary of the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza City, Gaza.

“They can do real damage, and eventually, out of many attempts, one of them might be successful,” he said. “[Israel] has very good countermeasures, this is an area where we excel. But in cyber mode, when you’re on the receiving end, even if you manage to foil a lot of attacks against you, it’s not reliable.’

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

The Atlantic Council also cites the example of 2018 World football championship in Russia as Israeli soldiers watched matches on an app on their smartphones at an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) base. The Golden Cup Android app, which was downloaded for free from the Google Play Store, was actually a malware that stealthily controlled the target device and stole sensitive information.

Before that, in 2017, Hamas used a series of fake Facebook accounts to contact young recruits in an attempt to gain access to sensitive army information. Dozens of soldiers, mostly from combat units, were tricked into talking to what they thought were young, attractive women in Israel and abroad, while Hamas accessed sensitive data on their phones.

“Hamas’ cyber capabilities are becoming increasingly sophisticated and expanding to target not only Israel, but other countries it considers hostile,” Joe Truzman, an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told Fox News Digital. “Over the past decade or so, Hamas and other Palestinian militant organizations have recognized the cyber arena as an important weapon-building field and have slowly developed sophisticated methods of countering Israel.”

Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
(Mahmoud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)


Last month, Hamas posted a tribute on its Telegram channel to the man it said created the group’s cyber unit eight years ago. In the announcement, the group said it has been “keeping up with scientific and technological development and inventing new methods in confronting the Zionist enemy (Israel)” throughout its “jihadist history,” according to Israeli news channel i24.

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

“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, improvisation of organization, use of relatively unsophisticated tools and attempts to influence the audience are hallmarks of terrorist strategy.”

“Hamas’ newly discovered cyber arm does pose a threat to Israel,” Truzman said. “In 2019, there were signs that the IDF recognized this as a threat when they bombed a site in the Gaza Strip used by Hamas for cyber operations.


“One of the most disturbing elements of Hamas’ capabilities is its ability to recruit spies in Israel for cyber operations,” he added, highlighting a recent incident in which three Israelis were caught transferring volumes of confidential Hamas data to Turkey.

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