Telecom blackout hits Gaza, Israeli cell service cut by hackers

The interruption of telecom services has become the latest fallout of Israel’s war against Hamas, as the Jewish nation’s largest cellular provider gets knocked offline and the Gaza Strip goes digitally dark.

Israeli largest mobile service provider Pelephone was successfully disrupted by hacktivists Tuesday, according to metrics from global internet monitoring non-profit NetBlocks.

This is as the war-torn Gaza Strip continues to be in a near digital communications blackout for the tenth time since Israel’s war on Hamas began over three months ago, also being monitored and reported by NetBlocks.

Known hacktivist group Anonymous Sudan claimed responsibility for the hack on Israel’s Pelephone Tuesday, on its official Telegram channel.

A subsidiary of the Israeli telecommunications conglomerate Bezeq, Pelephone is one of the leading and oldest telecommunications companies in the country, with about two million subscribers, its website states.

NetBlocks posted about the hack on X, confirming that its metrics showed a disruption to the Pelephone network and “corroborating user reports of outages.”

“Hacktivist group Anonymous Sudan has claimed the cyberattack as the latest in its campaign against prominent Israeli targets, “ NetBlocks posted.

Anonymous Sudan targets Israel

The Anonymous Sudan claim posted to its followers boasted about the attack, which began in sometime after 12 noon local time (UTC) on Tuesday, January 23rd.

“We have conducted a devastating cyber attack on the infrastructure of one of the biggest mobile network operators and telecommunications companies in Israel,” the group said.

“We have practically hit their entire infrastructure, Anonymous Sudan claimed.

“Yes you heard it right, the vast majority of the digital infrastructure of Pelephone is now offline by our sophisticated cyber attack. And what is hidden is greater,” it said, followed by a wink emoji.

Israel cellular provider Pelephone attack
Anonymous Sudan on Telegram. Image by Cybernews.

The hacktivist group also said it would claim responsibility for any damage to the overall health of the cellular provider.

“The collateral damage will be quite big as it hosts many critical systems, including SCADA and other infrastructure-based endpoints & companies which rely on the infrastructure of Pelephone,” Anonymous Sudan wrote.

Finally, the group vowed to continue its attacks against Israel as long as “they continue their genocidal campaign on Gaza.”

Gaza’s near-telecom blackout

Hours earlier, NetBlocks had reported about the state of telecommunications service in the Gaza Strip, which has been experiencing a “telecoms blackout for 24 hours,” the monitoring site posted in a series on X.

NetBlocks metrics showed connectivity had first dropped off severely across the 25-mile long region on January 22nd.

“The incident is likely to severely limit most residents' ability to communicate, in the tenth such incident since the start of the war, NetBlocks posted.

The internet freedom watchdog group noted that blackout is affecting “the few networks that remain after months of steady decline in connectivity.”

Meantime, Anonymous Sudan – reported by Cybernews as neither anonymous nor Sudanese – has been known for inserting itself in political hacktivist issues outside of its said targeted region, joining alongside other Russian-linked groups focused on targeting the West.

On its own, the group had successfully carried out multiple signature DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks on high-profile targets, such as SAS Airlines, Microsoft, UPS, and OpenAI's ChatGPT.

The group has been linked to the notorious KillNet gang, often combining its botnet powers to target its victims in tandem.

The two cybercriminal groups worked together in April 2023 to target dozens of critical infrastructure sites in Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Security Agency, the Israeli Police, as well as Israel’s elite counter-intelligence agency, known as the Mossad.

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