Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hacking In The Name of Islam - Part 1

'Values, Technology and Society' is a compulsory subject for every Kulliyyah of Engineering and Science postgraduate students. I took the subject last semester and as partial fulfillment of the subject, we have to submit an assigment related to ethics and the Kulliyah we reside. This is the second chapter of an assignment entitled 'Hacking: From Ethics Perspective', prepared by me and my colleague Yus:

Case Study
In Ariel Sharon’s Election Campaign 2001 website, a hacking group which called themselves WFD (World’s Fantabulous Defacers) had launched an attack which caused great impact. This applied a degree of satire in reproducing the original format, but replacing the text and images. Sharon is described as a war criminal; the photos are extremely graphic, including one of a badly scarred child whose horrific injuries were the result of his house being burned down by illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The page includes the statement: ‘Long live Hizballah! Long live Palestine! Long live Chechnya, Kashmir, Kosovo and Bosnia!’ This hack is regarded as high profile and significant in that it generated media interest on a notable target. (Bunt, p 23)

Ethical Arguments
The WFD hackers defended their actions by stating that they are merely hackers, with no intention to destroy, but only to deface. They argued that hacking can be one form of jihad since they are not able to successfully make a legitimate difference in oppressed and tortured lives in Palestine and other places where Muslims are oppressed. They claim that they will not stop until there is change and peace. (Bunt, p 23)

Defacements of websites recently used to promote and spread ideologies and campaigns on certain issues which are very effective since it targets large population of internet users. According to Wikipedia website, the term defacement in computing usually means the substitution of the original home page by a hacker. Wikipedia definition also mentions that defacement is generally meant as a kind of electronic graffiti.

Site defacement can be classified as cognitive hacking. Loosely speaking, cognitive hacking refers to a computer or information system attack that relies on changing human users' perceptions and corresponding behaviors in order to be successful. (Cybenko p 1)

By referring to our case study, the WFD hackers defaced Ariel Sharon’s Election Campaign 2001 website in the hope that there will be actions against oppression in Palestine and other places. Two broad classes of cognitive hacking can be distinguished: overt and covert. With overt cognitive hacking no attempt is made to conceal the fact that a cognitive hack has occurred. For example, website defacement is a type of overt cognitive hacking. While a website defacer may hope that the defacement is not noticed for as long as possible by a web page administrator, the web defacer’s modification to the website is a blatant modification that the intended audience will realize immediately is not the unmodified website. (Cybenko et. al. p 4)

Therefore we could say that the actions of WFD group is more like a psychological war, intended to change the audience perception about the situations in places where Muslims are being oppressed specifically in Palestine. A site called UNITY, whose website was part of the UK registered domain, contained campaigning materials in several European languages, focusing on Palestinian-Islamic issues. There was also UNITY hacking, under the ‘Iron Guards’ banner. They were allegedly involved in attacking Israeli Internet Service Providers (ISP), as part of a cohesive strategy. Faris Muhammad Al-Masri, founder of UNITY explained that phase one of UNITY’s objective includes disabling official Israeli government sites. Meanwhile phase two focuses on crashing financial sites such as those belonging to Israel’s Stock Exchange and central bank; phase three involves knocking out the main Israeli ISP servers; and phase four consists of blitzing major Israeli e-commerce sites to cause the loss of hundreds of online transactions. The main goal of all these phases is to affect Israeli infrastructures thus leading to weakening of Israeli government. (Bunt, p 47)

However, though the hackers claimed they are Muslims, their actions sometimes do not resemble Islamic characteristics. The usage of illicit and profane words are evident in some of the sites hacked. Holy Quran contains verses which promote us to use good words:

“Do you not see how Allah makes a metaphor of a good word: a good tree whose roots are firm and whose branches are in heaven?” (14:24)

“They have been guided to speak good words and guided to the praiseworthy path”. (22:24)

Of course, there are more groups of hackers who claim they hack for the sake of Islam. In fact, the amount is numerous. But for the discussion of this assignment, we just select two groups namely the WFD and UNITY.

1 comment:

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