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Crisis in the Middle East: Israeli, Palestinian Hackers Incite War of Words in Cyberspace

Aired November 2, 2000 - 1:27 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Faxes from the Islamic Jihad have been sent to several news agencies in Lebanon in which the group claims responsibility for this morning's powerful car bombing in the heart of Jerusalem. Two Israelis were killed, several other people wounded when the bomb went off near a marketplace. Israeli and Palestinian leaders say they will move forward with the cease-fire agreement announced just before the bombing.

Besides almost daily street fighting in the Middle East the past several weeks, CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney tells us there's also been a war of words in cyberspace.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-one- year-old Israeli Micky Buzaglo started this cyberwarfare from his bedroom a few weeks ago. Upset by what he saw on the Arab Web sites attacking Israel, he and some friends broke into the Web sites of Hezbollah, the Lebanese fundamental Islamic guerrillas, replacing their content with the Israeli flag and the Star of David.

MICKY BUZAGLO, FORMER ISRAELI HACKER: We the Israeli hackers need to show the real pictures and the right pictures, and we will not give a chance to an example to a Hezbollah site that will show propaganda against Israel. So this is the reason why I decided to attack couple of Hezbollah sites.

SWEENEY: Pro-Arab hackers struck back. And within days, Israeli government Web sites like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the defense forces and the Knesset were attacked and brought down for as long as two days in some cases.

ORI NOI, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY: I would say it's vandalism, not war, because this is an effort by some people to prevent others from reading our material. We don't pretend to be objective, we just want to bring the view of the government of the ministry of foreign affairs. This is like burning books. This is like censorship.

SWEENEY: In Ramallah in the West Bank near the scene of fierce clashes between Palestinians and Israelis on the ground, Palnet, the major Palestinian service provider, has had to defend its clients against pro-Israeli hackers. MAAN BSEISO, CEO, PALNET: You can't stop people from talking, you can't shut down Hezbollah from telling about what they believe in. It's important to allow Hezbollah, Palestine National Authority, the Palestinian people to talk and present their views on the Internet, the same way that has been carried by the IDF Web site and the other Israeli Web site.

SWEENEY: Deep in the heart of Israel's Silicon Valley lies Netvision, the biggest Internet service provider in one of the world's most connected countries. The Israeli government is one of its customers. Both Netvision and Palnet say they are strongly opposed to hacking no matter who the protagonist.

Netvision hires counterhackers like 20-year-old Manny (ph), who understands the modus operandi of a hacker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that if someone is trying to -- whether it's our hackers trying to knock down a Hezbollah site or Hezbollah trying to knock out the army's site, it's all games, nothing but war games.

SWEENEY: In Ramallah, this Internet cafe for young Palestinians is doing a brisk business. Many here are logged onto new Web sites reflecting their daily reality on the streets outside. Some of these Web sites have been targets of pro-Israeli hackers.

But despite the cyberwar, there are still those who maintain that the Internet is all about communication.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we start doing all that crazy stuff and, like, shutting down people's Web sites or whatever it is they're doing, nothing's going to ever go forward.

SWEENEY: Mickey now says he will stop hacking at Israeli Web sites but will continue his war of words on his own Web site, perhaps not all-out cyberwarfare, but not quite a cease-fire either.

Fionnuala Sweeney, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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