[AfrICANN-discuss] Morocco’s militant hackers
annerachel at gmail.com
Thu Oct 21 08:41:53 SAST 2010
Morocco’s militant hackers
Monday 18 October 2010 <http://www.afrik-news.com/archives-2010-10.html> /
by Stéphanie Plasse <http://www.afrik-news.com/writer1051.html>
They are militant hackers who have attacked sites in Egypt, Morocco, Spain,
Israel... Their screen messages have been likened to messages on banners
hoisted by demonstrators in protest or support of political, social or even
religious ideologies. The group is very active in Morocco, from where they
have often hacked into sensitive security systems.
Sitting behind their computer screens, they meticulously encode and decode
IT security systems in search of the slightest miscalculation in order to
launch an attack. Widely known as hackers in Morocco, they have gone haywire
and are relentless in their efforts to penetrate into both local and foreign
sites. Egypt, Kuwait and Israel have all fallen victim to their devices.
But these are not some casual credit card thieves. They fall into a new
category of activists known as "hacktivists". And while the oil that keeps
the wheels of this underground movement rolling is the Internet, it is their
ideological beliefs that keep their lamps alight. "It is the oldest form of
hacking. Many developing countries resort to this mode of protest," says Ali
El Azzouzi, a Moroccan IT security expert. In recent years, Morocco, like
many other countries, has seen a surge in hacking.
Although there is no typical profile, hackers are often portrayed as young,
under 20 computer enthusiasts. "’Haktivists’ can be grouped into two
categories: ’white hat’ and ’black hat’. In other words, good guys and bad
guys. ’White hat’ refers to those that break into networks without
necessarily causing havoc, whilst ’black hats’ usually refers to those who
hack into systems with very destructive, and sometimes money-making,
intentions" said a young ’geek’ who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Haktivists are organized in groups and sometimes go by unsuspecting names
like "Ghosts of Morocco" to more aggressive ones such as "Team Evil". For
Damien, an IT journalist at Zataz, "this is a group of young guys who are
fooling around." "Hacking is their hobby. Some try pushing political
ideologies, but in most cases, they are only excuses to engage in hacking."
Nonetheless, militant hackers are busy doing what they do best. And their
latest feats include a site belonging to a Spanish disco, Meca. Meca looks
like a mosque and has a dome and a minaret. September 13, hackers replaced
the homepage with a picture of the Haram al-Sharif (Dome of the Rock in
Jerusalem), accompanied by a hacker’s signature: a male face adorned with a
red cap bearing a star. The hacker also left a message: "Do you want to
discover one day that your church has become a place dedicated to livestock
Spain was not the only country to suffer that month. Egypt’s Ministry of
Communications saw its site falling prey to Moroccan hackers after the
broadcast of a TV movie, Dishonor. According to the group, the movie insults
the integrity of Moroccan women.
This type of online activism emerged in 2006 with "Team Evil". The group
hacked over 750 Israeli sites in response to an offensive by the Jewish
state in the Gaza Strip. The affected sites had warning messages posted on
their screens, some of which read: “Site hacked by Team Evil Arab Hackers.
As long as you kill Palestinians, we will kill your servers”.
The Israeli response was quick. Some 250 Internet sites in the North African
Kingdom were attacked. Contrary to Israel, the damage to Morocco was heavy.
Attack from Israel’s “TEAM Good” on the Moroccan ISP Omihost hit some
important servers containing back-ups. War on the Web was officially
launched and hacktivism was born.
But despite its somewhat political agenda, hacktivism "remains an illegal
and destructive way to express one’s anger. The intention is commendable,
but the act is not," says Anas El Filali B., founder of the blog Big
But if hacktivism has become so big, it is due to the vulnerability of
systems on the one hand, and the religious determination of hackers on the
other hand. Only a few ministries have the necessary tool capable of
deterring cyber attacks.
Hacktivists have the leeway to operate in Morocco. "It is a conquered land"
says Ali El Azzouzi. "The sites are not secure and there is a legal vacuum
in this area".
Indeed, the Moroccan Penal Code which frowns against cybercrime and
intrusions into databases as well as the law on the protection of personal
data are hardly ever applied. "Judges are not trained enough and do not know
who they are dealing with," says the expert.
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