August 27, 2013
Hackers Attack, Deface Google’s Palestinian Website
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Google’s homepage in Palestine was hijacked last night when a hacker rerouted traffic to another server.The attack appears to be in protest of Google’s adoption of the “Palestine” moniker on its homepage. In May, the search giant switched the headline of Google.ps from “Palestinian Territories” to simply “Palestine.”
The hijackers were able to redirect traffic from Google.ps with a DNS attack. Rather than see the usual Google logo and search bar, visitors saw a political message and a map of the area. The hijackers also embedded a RealPlayer plugin which was used to play a Rihanna track.
According to a TechCrunch report, the headline “Google Owned No News Is a Good News” topped the redirected site. Four names — what appear to be the pseudonyms of the hackers involved — were listed underneath: Cold zero, Haml3t, Sas and Dr@g. The group listed themselves as “From Palestine: We are the Best of the Rest.”
“uncle google we say hi from palestine to remember you that the country in google map not called israel. its called Palestine,” reads the hijacked page. The hackers then say “it would be revolution” if they changed the name of Israel to Palestine in Google Maps.
According to ZDNet, the hijackers were able to reroute traffic away from Google’s servers to a server located in Morocco. Those who visited the site could still click the Google logo and be directed to a Google-owned site, and when checked, Google still held ownership of the Google.ps domain. A link on the hijacked site also led visitors to a hacking forum where these kinds of attacks are explained and shared.
In a statement, Google acknowledged the DNS redirect, but said it had not been hacked.
“Some users visiting Google.ps have been getting redirected to a different website,” explained a Google spokesperson. “We're in contact with the organization responsible for managing this domain name so we can help resolve the problem.”
Save the RealAudio plugin needed to hear the Rihanna track, the attack appeared mostly harmless and did not lead visitors to malicious sites.
Google said when it planned to switch the title name on its Google Palestine website in May, it had consulted several authorities before actually doing so.
"In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, Icann [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], ISO [International Organization for Standardization], and other international organizations,” explained spokesperson Nathan Tyler in a BBC interview at the time.
Changing the name has been a controversial move embraced by some and contested by others.
According to Israeli policy, the borders of Palestine have not yet been determined. Though the country hasn't been granted official member status in the UN, Palestinians have been fighting to be recognized as their own entity under the name Palestine. The Palestine Authority understandably praised Google’s May decision, saying "Most of the traffic that happens now happens in the virtual world and this means putting Palestine on the virtual map as well as on the geographic maps.”