Solar Sunrise hacker joins Mid-East cyber-war

Pentagon humiliater turns on Palestinians

The ongoing war of packet floods and Web defacements between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian hacktivists saw a new and famous name enter the fray last week: Ehud Tenebaum, the Israeli hacker known as "The Analyzer," who was fingered by the US government in 1998 as the mastermind of one of the biggest Pentagon hack-attacks in history.

The twenty-one year old Tenebaum is serving as CTO of the security firm 2XS. Two weeks ago, according to Tenebaum, he heard from a hacker group he founded in 1996, called the Israeli Internet Underground (IIU). The group asked Tenebaum if his company would provide security solutions for Israeli companies for free.

"They claimed they are going to help all the Israeli sites that are under attack, or sites that there is a good reason to believe will be attacked," says Tenebaum. "I liked the idea in general."

The result was a partnership between 2XS, Tenebaum's company, and the IIU, now self-described white hat hackers aiming at a defensive role in the mid-East cyberwar.

The IIU established a Web site listing the names of companies and organizations in Israel that the group determined were vulnerable to intrusions. Organizations that found themselves on that list could contact 2XS, which provided them with patches, workarounds or advice on how to close the holes. "We agreed to provide a solution to anyone who wants a solution," says Tenebaum.

The project ended on Saturday, and Tenebaum pronounces it a success. "I can tell you we had hundreds of companies contacting 2XS."

Seven weeks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has claimed at least 256 lives, according to CNN, which counts the dead as 218 Palestinians, 25 Israeli Jews and 13 Israeli Arabs.

Groups supporting both sides of the conflict have brought it on line with denial of service attacks, Web defacements and computer intrusions against their opponents' networks. "It's wrong to take these kinds of things to the Internet, because it involves a lot of companies that did nothing," says Tenebaum.

Israeli police searched Tenebaum's home, and detained Tenebaum, in March, 1998, while investigating what then-US Deputy Defence Secretary John Hamre called "the most organized and systematic attack to date" on US military systems. The attacks exploited a well-known vulnerability in the Solaris operating system, for which at that time a patch had been available for months.

The raid was the culmination of an investigation code named "Solar Sunrise," involving the FBI, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, NASA, the Department of Justice, the Defence Information Systems Agency, the NSA, and the CIA. Two California teens were also charged in the case; both later received probation.

"This arrest should send a message to would-be computer hackers all over the world that the United States will treat computer intrusions as serious crimes," US Attorney General Janet Reno said at the time. "We will work around the world and in the depths of cyberspace to investigate and prosecute those who attack computer networks."

After a brief stint in the military, Tenebaum was indicted under Israeli computer crime laws in February 1999, and pleaded not guilty in September of that year. The case has languished in the courts since then. "I would prefer to have it finished soon," says Tenebaum. "This trial is keeping me from doing a lot of stuff that I need to do in the business world."

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