Cyber attacks were among the first tactics used by Hamas when it launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and started war with Israel.
The group has a specialist unit that uses the internet as its battleground. Called Cyber Force, it is part of Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades. Israel has described Cyber Force members as “shadow soldiers” and has assassinated some of its leaders.
In 2021, the Israeli army and the Shin Bet security agency said that they destroyed training centres used by the unit in what they called Operation Guardian of the Walls.
But Cyber Force survived to become one of the pillars of 7 October, and its successful role in supporting the operation caused both surprise and outrage in Israel, despite official denials that it caused serious disruption.
According to Cloudflare, the global, US-based internet security company, cyberattacks were launched at 03.30 GMT on 7 October, aimed at blocking Israeli websites. So-called “distributed denial of service” attacks aim to deluge sites with requests for information, overwhelming their ability to provide it, and knocking them out of action.
The first attack peaked at 100,000 requests per second and lasted 10 minutes. A second attack was much larger, peaking at 1 million requests per second and lasted six minutes. They targeted sites and applications that provide essential information and alerts to the Israelis.