Social Media Attacks on pro-Israel Accounts During Operation “Guardian of the Walls” Malaysian Cyber Warfare

Main Findings
  • Recently, during the “Guardian of the Walls” operation in Gaza (May 10th – May 21st), there was a massive attack on mainstream social media and messaging platforms against Israelis and pro-Israelis. Those attacks led to aggressive spamming of pro-Israeli content and also to suspension or blocking of accounts.
  • From an extensive web research, we found that the source of these social media attacks comes mostly from the Malaysian arena, organized and led by a network of Malaysian anti-Israel organizations and groups, with tremendous exposure online of hundreds of thousands of views and followers
  • Those Malaysian orgs and groups designed and spread meticulous instructions of – how to attack, whom to attack and what content to use – for the masses of their viewers and followers
  • The attacks were operated in two main dimensions :
    • Harassing and trolling pro-Israel accounts
    • Suspending and blocking pro-Israel accounts
  • Many thousands of Israelis and pro-Israelis were targeted by these attacks :
    • Well-known personas and orgs in all sectors, such as – PM Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Arab media spokesperson Avichay Adraee, Israeli Hollywood actor Gal Gadot, IDF’s accounts, Christians Unite for Israel (CUFI) accounts, etc.
    • Accounts that used main pro-Israel hashtags in their social media content, such as – #IsraelUnderFire, #IsraelUnderAttack, or expressed their support for this content
    • Israeli accounts that probably appeared on former cyber leaks
  • One of the main hashtags that was used during the attacks and was created at the beginning of the operation is #IsraelKoyak. “Koyak” is a Malay word, meaning “torn”. It is also “a Malaysian slang used for someone who is easily frustrated/have mental breakdown, usually uses to insult other people during a fight”[1]. According to our research this hashtag was mentioned over 557K times on Twitter only during the days of the operation in Gaza, with a potential reach of over 251M.
  • 481K of the mentions (86%) were comments and retweets – which aligns with the nature of this dictated campaign

https://twitter.com/NajmiFetih/status/1393086858284859396/photo/1

Conclusions and recommendations
  • It seems that the attacks conducted in practice mostly by authentic Malaysian and other anti-Israel Muslim people that followed the detailed instructions and used the materials supplied by the attacks’ organizers online.
  • It is possible that automatic infrastructures, such as – bots or pay-per-like/comment services were also involved in the attacks. Although, no actual indications of this have been identified.
  • The massive and aggressive attacks against pro-Israel accounts during the operation in Gaza demonstrates the power of the anti-Israeli Muslims on the web.
  • The findings of the research indicate that there is a large and powerful network of anti-Israel groups and orgs in Malaysia, that should be further researched for it connections to DLG, etc.
  • These attacks damaged the ability of free expression of many thousands of Israelis and pro-Israelis that wanted to share their legitimate feelings and views on the situation in Israel during the operation, without any intent of violence or racism.
  • Therefore, these attacks illustrate (once again) the lack of real responsibility of social media platforms towards the public of their users, and the urgent need for proactive and comprehensive actions from their side, in order to ensure safe and proper use
  • Such attacks can be stopped or at least restrained by the platforms, byblocking the dominant accounts and channels of these Malaysian orgs and groups so they will not be used as platforms for incitement

[1] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=koyak