Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shia-Sunni war over websites

Here is an interesting news item that talks about hacking wars between Sunnis and Shias (and also by extension between the Iranians and the Arabs). Apparently it has intensified since last September. Intelligence agencies of many countries have been playing (and preparing) for cyber-warfare. So this may simply be an internet skirmish (hey - it beats the actual bombs). On the other hand, this may be a sign of deteriorating relations between Iran and some of the Arab countries:

The cyberassaults temporarily defaced websites of prominent Muslim clerics, including those of Iraqi Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the late Sunni mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz Abdullah bin Baz.

More recently, Shiite hackers attacked the website of Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. For hours, site visitors were redirected to a page where, beneath an image of a burning Israeli flag, large red letters in English and Arabic declared: "Serious Warning. If attacks on Shia WebSites Continue, none of your WebSites Will be SAFE."

Middle East experts say that this online psychological battle should be seen in the context of Sunni dismay over what they see as Iran's strategic gains in Arab nations, especially Iraq.

Although it's hard to show any direct connection in the cloaked world of Web sabotage, the interreligious hacking really took off after prominent Sunni cleric Yousef al-Qaradawi called Shiites "heretics" and accused them of trying to "invade" Sunni communities in a Sept. 9 interview.

His remarks were "a green light" for Sunnis to go on the offensive against Shiite sites, says Ali Ahmed, director of the Washington-based Gulf Institute, a Saudi opposition think tank.

A couple of weeks later, an Iranian news agency claimed that 300 Shiite websites had been defaced by Wahhabis, as the austere Sunni Muslims in Saudi Arabia are known, including that of Mr. Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric.

Then came attacks on scores of Sunni websites. Shiite hackers often left the same calling card: a face painted with the colors of the Iranian flag, and a map of the Arabian Gulf labeled "The Persian Gulf."

Hmm...welcome to the global community - Now we can smoothly transfer our ideological hatred to the web. But wait - there was a truce during the last Eid:
During the religious holiday of Eid-al-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan, some of the hackers, apparently Shiite, offered a truce of sorts on a Web page featuring a bouquet of flowers and two clasped hands. The olive branch did not last long.
Ok - so there is still some sense humor there (or at least I am interpreting it as a light moment).

Read the full story here (it also talks about the hacking of Al-Qaeeda websites last September 10th). By the way, the image with post is from the US Department of Justice Kids page. Seriously, can't trust anyone under 10!