The cyber threat the Hamas-Malaysia front poses to Israel – Opinion


Digital trolling is expected for hot topics like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One peek in the comments section of almost any YouTube video on a political topic and you’re bound to see bigotry from one side or the other. But while other issues are harassed, even the occasional exaggerated comment, there is a difference from what we saw during the IDF’s last operation, Guardians of the Wall. Is there a digital front between Hamas and Malaysia? The evidence suggests this could very well be and Israel would be wise to be careful, as would social media platforms.

During the May operation, the IDF announced that its policy was to target Hamas activists everywhere, particularly in Malaysia. We know that Malaysia has already proven itself to be a “good friend” of the Hamas terrorists and that as a nation they hold many deeply anti-Semitic beliefs. But is the Hamas-Malaysia connection boiling over onto social media? From May 10-21, anti-Israeli trolls from Malaysia launched an organized and coordinated cyberbullying attack aimed at threatening, silencing and otherwise disrupting the daily lives of Israelis – both private individuals and officials.

Using the hashtag #IsraelKoyak more than half a million times, activists took orders from a number of social media groups and spammed Israeli private and public accounts en masse to silence pro-Israeli voices. More alarming, these activists also ran coordinated campaigns to hack social media accounts from major pro-Israeli voices (including me) and have their accounts blocked. They also used information from data leaks to spam individuals and public officials on WhatsApp and effectively block their accounts. It’s not just “hacktivism” or cyberbullying, it’s war – and it has profound consequences.

For example, Malaysian trolls were able to find out the personal telephone number of the Arab IDF spokesman Avichay Adraee and block his WhatsApp account during a military operation. In another, they obtained the phone number of a senior government official from the Department of Strategic Affairs and forced him to change his phone number. Regarding the harassment of public figures, the Malaysians left thousands of hateful comments on Gal Gadot’s post, which ultimately led her to disable all comments. In another, they spam the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for his pro-Israeli statements. The goal of this heinous harassment (including death threats) is to suppress the free expression of anyone who dares to express a pro-Israel sentiment online – and the social media networks simply allow it, although it’s a clear violation of the law their terms of use.

EVEN more shocking is that these groups use social media platforms to maliciously attack users on the platforms. They provide lists of accounts that can be hacked and harassed, as well as specific instructions on how often to tweet or comment without banning your own accounts, how to use a VPN, and from which countries, how to hide your identity to get involved. Cyber ​​Warfare ”and more. All of this is happening on mainstream social media platforms in Facebook groups, Telegram channels, WhatsApp and Twitter. So far, the social media platforms haven’t done anything to shut it down. How can Facebook allow its own platforms to host groups of half a million people that use the group to silence another group? How can a campaign with half a million tweets that are used solely to harass a specific group of people go unnoticed by Twitter? It’s just unacceptable.

New research into what happened during the operation suggests an orchestrated and well-planned effort on all social media platforms to target Israeli and Jewish users. With the help of Telegram, activists in Malaysia used channels with thousands of followers such as Team Suspend Twitter, where they sent lists of the main pro-Israeli accounts, followed by instructions on how to maliciously attack accounts with fake passwords in order to suspend them.

One of the leading groups behind this cyber attack was a Facebook group called the Malaysian Troll Army, which has over half a million followers. Throughout the operation, this group sent calls to harass, hack and otherwise silence pro-Israel digital voices. In my case, I received over 100,000 mentions on my Twitter from Malaysia. Another group that works with the Malaysian troll army is the Cinta Syria Malaysia (CSM) with 300,000 followers and its sister organization Cinta Gaza Malaysia, which is headed by a Malaysian in Gaza, Nadir al-Nuri.

Al-Nuri himself has a Telegram network of over 256,000 followers that he activated during the operation to carry out the cyberbullying and provides a list of pro-Israel accounts to hack and close. While there is no direct evidence yet, it is difficult to imagine that a Gaza-based anti-Israel activist with hundreds of thousands of supporters would not take any direction from Hamas, especially during the war.

Given the documented illegal nature of these cyberattacks, which includes providing leaked private information such as individual Israeli phone numbers for harassment purposes, social media companies must take steps to actively monitor targeted harassment through these Malaysian channels and them close. Twitter, Facebook, Telegram and WhatsApp must prevent misuse of their platforms and other users on them. It is time to close the Hamas-Malaysia front.

Emily Schrader is the CEO of Social Lite Creative LLC and a research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute.


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