Free professional security advice for Palestinian hackers

by Stephen Cobb on October 12, 2013

First of all, welcome. I am glad you found this page. Please don’t hack it.

Who am I? I am one of many people in the computer security world who have great sympathy for the Palestinian people. We agree with you that the Palestinian people deserve to live in peace. We let our politicians know what we think. We use social media to spread news and awareness of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian people at the hands of Western governments and their allies in the region.

As computer security professionals, we also work hard to protect the privacy and cybersecurity of hundreds millions of individuals around the world. Some of those people are Palestinians. For example, I work at ESET, a company which protects the computers and smartphones of many millions of people in more than 180 different countries. I’m guessing some of them are Palestinian sympathizers.

Recently, some of you have been busy redirecting website traffic AWAY from sites that many people, including some Palestinian sympathizers, rely on for help in protecting their privacy and their data, and TO a page that calls for Palestinian rights. I have to say, I don’t think this strategy is helping you, or the Palestinian cause; it hurts law-abiding human beings who use computers and smartphones to make an honest living, to connect with their families, and in some cases, to campaign for peace and justice.

[Note: When I say sympathy with the plight of the Palestinian people, or sympathy with the Palestinian cause, I mean that I think the people of Palestine have been, and are being, treated inhumanely, and that they deserve a secure homeland in which they are free to enjoy the rights and liberties that Americans take for granted. I do not mean that violence against civilians in pursuit of political aspirations is justified: it is not, ever, no matter what side you are on. Yet complacency and apathy in the face of inhumanity and injustice are equally objectionable.]

So, what is my professional advice? Use your computer skills to advance the cause in ways that don’t impact innocent digital bystanders. Let me give you an example. This website you are reading right now is hosted on a web server that was hacked a few months ago in the name of freedom for Palestinians. The same web server hosts information about a potentially fatal genetic condition that doctors often fail to diagnose. That website helps a lot of people but it went down because someone thought hacking it would help the Palestinian cause. Did it help? I don’t see any evidence that it did. Several kind and generous people had to give up their time to fix the website. Some innocent people in need of helpful information could not get to that information for days.

kdms-palestineDid the hack provide any benefit to anyone? Not really. Security experts already know that websites can be hacked, and it is well known that the DNS servers which direct traffic to websites can be messed with. But the more protection that is applied to protect sites and infrastructure, the more expensive and cumbersome the Internet becomes. And I’m guessing you use the Internet for more things than hacking. How about use of the Internet to organize humanitarian aid for Palestine? How about use of the Internet to raise awareness of, and sympathy for, the Palestinian cause? Why not apply your skills and energy to those efforts? Help the people who are trying, or may be persuaded to try, to help you.

No quest for peace and freedom can prosper without a critical mass of support that comes from many quarters. Annoying people who might otherwise be persuaded to support you just seems counter-productive.

Respectfully…Stephen Cobb, CISSP

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