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Middle East cyberwar hits Israeli banks, stock exchange, airline

Some Israeli banks are blocking, or say they will block, access to sites from Middle Eastern countries in the wake of attacks on banks, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and El Al Airline.

Hackers in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries are in the middle of a cyberwar that has led to disruptions of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, several Israeli banks, and an airline. As a result, some Israeli banks have blocked or are threatening to block international access to their sites to avoid attack.

Israel's El Al Airlines is among the targets of Middle East hackers engaged in cyberwar. El Al Airlines

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks Monday that crippled the Web sites of the Tel Aviv bourse Web site and El Al Airlines, as well as the marketing sites of the First International Bank of Israel (Fibi), Massad bank, and Otzar Hahayal bank, according to Reuters. Stock trading and flights were uninterrupted, as were online services for bank customers, the report said. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange site was not accessible this afternoon from the United States.

To avoid further attacks, Fibi and Israel's Discount Bank had blocked international access to their sites, and other banks were considering it, reported Israeli news Web site Ynet. However, the two bank sites were accessible from the U.S. today. Meanwhile, the Israeli Bank was blocking Internet Protocol addresses from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Algeria only, The Next Web reported.

The attacks and counterattacks by purported Arab and Israeli hackers were spurred by an attack on an e-commerce site in Israel that exposed the data of thousands of Israelis earlier this month. Saudi hacker OxOmar, a member of Group-XP, took credit for breaking into Israeli sports Web site ONE two weeks ago, and releasing the credit card and personal data of hundreds of thousands of cardholders, reported. The credit card companies, however, said the number of cardholders affected was only 15,000, according to Israeli news Web site Ynet.

In retaliation, a purported Israeli hacker says he has released credit card numbers and e-mails of more than 200 Saudi citizens and told Haaretz that he had personal information of more than 50,000 Arab citizens.

Hackers identifying themselves as "Israel Defense Forces" threatened in a Pastebin post to attack three Arab Emirate banks, two government sites, Saudi Airlines, and an airport site today, but the sites were accessible midday. However, other sites were inaccessible, including in Saudi Arabia.

OxOmar has threatened to publicly reveal credit card data for 200 Israelis every day, if the attacks on Israeli sites don't stop, according to Ynet. He also has called on Arab hackers to unite in attacking Israeli sites.

Meanwhile, Israel will respond to cyberattacks the way it does violent "terrorist" acts, by striking back with force against attackers, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Dany Ayalon said January 7, following the release of the credit card data, according to Agence France-Presse.

The first international cyberwar is believed to have played out in Russia and Estonia in 2007, when Russians launched a denial-of-service attack and shut down Estonian government sites. That skirmish is believed to have been triggered by Estonia's relocating a bronze statue memorial to a World War II hero. A year later, a cyberwar broke out between Russians and Georgians.