What just happened? Cyberattacks aren’t a new type of weapon of warfare, but we’ve just seen the first instance of a military responding to one with physical force in real-time.
On Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it prevented an attempted cyberattack by Hamas. It retaliated by launching air strikes against a building in the Gaza strip that it claimed housed Hamas cyber operatives.
We don’t know the exact target of the cyberattack, but The Times of Israel reports that its purpose was to harm “the quality of life of Israeli citizens.” The IDF said the attack was not particularly advanced. “We were a step ahead of them the whole time,” said Brigadier General D., the head of the IDF's cyber defense division. "The moment they tried to do something, they failed."
The IDF released a video showing a building where it says the attack was launched being destroyed. "At this point in time, Hamas has no cyber operational capabilities," said IDF spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manlis.
Here is the video released by the IDF showing the air-strike against the building housing Hamas cyber forces. pic.twitter.com/uHm2ZYa4AP— Catalin Cimpanu (@campuscodi) May 5, 2019
The US responded with force to a cyberattack back in 2015 when it used a drone strike to kill an ISIS operative who leaked US service record details online. But unlike the IDF response, that retaliatory act wasn’t immediate.
The incident came amid a weekend of violence that saw Hamas launch over 600 rockets into Israel. The IDF said it attacked 320 targets belonging to Gaza militant groups. According to Reuters, four civilians in Israel have been killed by rockets and missiles, while Israeli strikes killed 19 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians.
Questions are now being asked as to whether the IDF’s response was a proportional one, especially as it halted the cyberattack before any damage was done.