An Israeli hacker published details of what he claimed were more than 200 Saudi-owned credit cards online overnight in a revenge attack after a similar move by “Saudi” hackers earlier this month.
A top Saudi banking official had denied Tuesday the report that hackers from Israel obtained credit card and bank account details of thousands of Saudi citizens.
In a posting titled “FREE Saudi’s Credit Cards!” the Israeli hacker listed the names, email addresses, phone numbers and numbers of 217 cards, of which more than 160 appeared to have expiry dates that were still valid, according to AFP.
The hacker used the nickname “0xOmer” -- an almost identical name to that of the Saudi hacker who exposed the Israeli card details -- and identified himself as “Omer Cohen from Israel.”
But in a Twitter posting, he refused to expose the cards’ security codes, or CVC numbers, saying the aim was just to “alert.”
Cohen told the Israeli Yediot Ahronot’s online edition Ynet that he was a soldier in the IDF’s Intelligence Corps and that he does not anticipate a cyber-war between Israeli and Arab hackers.
“Dozens of Israeli websites are attacked every day,” he said, adding that he respects the group of hackers he belongs to, but disagreed with its decision to postpone the publication of the stolen information.
“I believe the information should be published as soon as it is obtained,” he told the Ynet. “The responses to the (cyber-attack on Israeli websites) were too moderate.”
The hacker said he was sorry if any innocent people were hurt by his actions, adding that his only goal was to “create deterrence.”
On Tuesday, Talaat Hafez, secretary-general of the media office in Saudi Arabia’s banking authority, denied the report published by the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that the Israeli hackers were to release the financial information they obtained if hackers continue to publish Israeli credit details on line.
Hafez was quoted by the Saudi online newspaper Sabq.org as saying that Saudi bank customers’ financial information was safe and there was “no need for customers to be concerned” because Saudi banks’ information networks were very secure, The Associated Press reported.
Hafez also said officials had received no reports from Saudis about their data being breached.
The dueling reports underscored the hostile relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel's statehood.
The hacking issue surfaced after YNet reported that hackers, identifying themselves as Group XP, claimed to have gained access to 400,000 Israeli credit card accounts in what was described as “a gift to the world for the New Year.”
Days later, a hacker claiming to be a 19-year-old Saudi national, using the pseudonym OxOmar, posted online the credit card details and personal information of 6,000 thousand Israelis and said he had access to tens of thousands of other accounts. He said the “Zionist lobby” was behind covering up the size of the initial leak.
On Tuesday, the Hamas armed group praised the cyber-attack as “resistance” against Israel.
“We in Hamas bless this effort and urge Arab youth to activate and develop it,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in Gaza, according to AP.
Israeli officials said about 21,000 active credit card accounts in all were compromised. Banks said the cards were canceled and new ones issued.
It was not possible to independently verify the claims by the hackers.
In apparent retribution for the cyber-attacks, YNet reported that Israeli hackers inside and outside the country had obtained the records of thousands of credit cards used in Saudi shopping web sites. One of the hackers, who was not identified, told the newspaper they would disclose the material if “the leaks continue.”
YNet said it reviewed the information and can “confirm that at least some of the names on the list are real and match the rest of the details presented in the hacker’ list.” The website said it verified some of the information through Facebook pages and email accounts.
Over the weekend, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon described the cyber-attacks as terrorism and warned that Israel would “retaliate forcefully.”
On Monday, he found his own website had been attacked.
Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that Israel is poised to combat cyber terrorism.
“From our standpoint we are talking about a meaningful and even critical arena,” Gantz said.
The army chief’s comments were relayed by a meeting participant who, under committee guidelines, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Israeli cyber expert Gadi Evron said politically-motivated cyber-attacks have taking place for the last 20 years. “You may know who your rivals are, but you may not necessarily know who is hacking you,” said Evron, formerly in charge of Internet security for the Israeli government and now a research fellow at Tel Aviv University.
He said Israel, a high-tech powerhouse, is more prepared than most countries to deal with cyber-attacks, but it must improve cyber security coordination with the private sector, which controls key infrastructure like Internet and cellular phone providers.
Israeli security officials said the country’s Shin Bet internal security agency has a special unit that advises sensitive sectors considered vital to security, like public utilities, about Internet security. It recently added banks and cell phone companies.
“We are definitely going to see more and more sophisticated attacks,” Evron said, while cautioning against an overreaction that panics the public.
“The sun will rise tomorrow. It’s not the end of world yet,” he said.