What do political violence and sovereignty disputes in Kashmir and Palestine have to do with a planned cyber attack against the United States of America? If not everything, then many things. Groups fighting for changes to political boundaries in these regions have been responsible for the systematic cyber targeting of government, financial, and commercial centers in the perceived aggressor states: India and Israel – and, by extension, the United States. Enter OpUSA.
The scheduled action will take place on May 7, one month to the day after the launch of OpIsrael, which targeted Israeli government sites and leaked credit card information. Groups like Moroccan Hackers, TheHackersArmy, and AnonGhost Team were driving forces behind the operation. Less than two weeks later, and shortly after OpUSA was announced, AnonGhost Team hacked eight US-based websites. Affected websites included the American Small Business Alliance and the US 47th Infantry Regiment 9th Infantry Division.
With solidarity facilitated by fiberoptics, these groups find easy company in the shared motivations and aims of other self-proclaimed online freedom fighters. Take the ZCompany Hacking Crew and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters, for example. Both have pledged participation in OpUSA and both are global actors with regional concerns as overriding priorities. They see their actions on the global level as having the potential to favorably improve their regional conditions.
The fight for Kashmir is the primary cause of the ZCompany Hacking Crew, a Pakistani-based outfit that has gone after archenemy India – and the United States – before.
- June 2011 – The group hacked over 700 Indian websites, targeting commercial and educational interests
- Late 2010 – They teamed up with TeaMp0isN to attack thousands of Facebook pages, ranging from those belonging to the English Defence League to the White House
- February 2012 – Both groups leaked more than 200 credit cards from Israeli and US sites as part of Operation Free Palestine
And so we come back to the United States, which the Palestinian-spirited Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters have targeted before. Their preferred means of doing so: going after the banks.
- September 18, 2012 – Following the release of the US-produced anti-Islam film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” the hackvisit group launched Operation Ababil, a DDoS-centered attack first targeting the Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
- March 2013 – The group continued with attacks, resulting in service disruptions on the websites of multiple banks. Targets include: Citi, Chase Bank, SunTrust, and other institutions.
This previous and ongoing action by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters may well be only preparation for OpUSA. The recent cyber attacks by AnonGhost against several US-based websites reaffirms this forward momentum. In published material, those behind OpUSA have mentioned their goal in hurting “the only thing the American government cares about”: money. There is the underlying wisdom of Will Sutton in all of this – going after banks “because that’s where the money is.”
In the planning and participants behind OpUSA, we see the complimentary elements of hacktivist groups coming together against a common enemy. Groups like ZCompany Hacking Crew and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters teaming up with the likes of TheHackersArmy and the Moroccan Hackers suggests an element of regional interests being served by targeting the invisible – or not so invisible – hand seen too often to be pulling the strings. Such groups find further support with the likes of AnonGhost Team, which has pledged its participation.
By going after the United States, these hackers seek their version of justice in the lands where they believe injustice has been perpetrated by the United States. It’s for this reason that direct mentions of drones and actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, and Pakistan are made in statements by those behind the scheduled action on May 7. We’ve seen bits and pieces of this before in direct cyber action against the United States. But what OpUSA supposes to be is a coordinated attack among those whose experiences in targeting other governments and other banks might lead to a cyber synergy that previous individual actions could only hope to achieve.