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Hackers target Palestinian news sites

Feb. 1, 2012 3:26 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 9, 2012 1:47 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hackers temporarily shut down two Palestinian news websites in the occupied West Bank late Tuesday, the latest targets in a string of hacks on Mideast websites.

There was no immediate indication of who was behind the attacks on Wafa, the Palestinian Authority's official news agency, and several websites affiliated with Ma'an Network including its news page.

The attacks follow a string of tit-for-tat hacks of Israeli, Saudi and Iranian websites over the past month. Last week Israel's mainstay Haaretz newspaper was taken offline temporarily by pro-Palestinian hackers.

Israeli and Arab hacking groups have claimed responsibility for targeting dozens of websites in December and January, usually causing short-lived outages but little major damage.

The head of IT at Ma'an, Haitham Mousa, said the latest appeared to be a type of distributed denial-of-service attack, a common tactic to overwhelm a website's servers with repeated access requests.

The attacks continued into Wednesday, but most services were back up by dawn.

"When a visitor clicks the website, they will get either a message telling them the website is too busy, or that it is down," said Haitham Mousa, head of IT services for Ma'an Network.

"They couldn't take it down completely. We were able to return the site by yesterday evening," Mousa said. "This is an opportunity for us to study these kinds of attacks" and how to prevent them.

Editor-in-chief Nasser Laham said it was hard to pinpoint the source of the attack, as hundreds of thousands of requests originated in several countries -- namely Sweden, Brazil and Israel.

Ma'an regularly registers half a million visitors from Palestine, Israel, Arab countries, Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia, making it difficult to pinpoint the origin, he said.
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