It takes a brave hacker to declare war on the state of Israel. As Israel’s neighbors can attest, declaring war on the Jewish state doesn’t tend to produce favorable outcomes.

So it was interesting to see the hacker group Anonymous declare “war” on Israel, which probably has as much legal significance as America declaring war on “terror”. Vowing to retaliate against Israeli strikes against Gaza, Anonymous claimed to have attacked hundreds of Israeli government and private Web sites, though Israeli officials say the damage has been minor. They also published names of donors to Israel. Israeli newspapers, busy covering the conflict with Hamas, have barely mentioned the attacks.

The interesting question is how Israel will respond. Jerusalem is unlikely to call in the Shayetet 13 naval commandos to raid hacker hideouts, or disrupt hacker supply lines by sending drones to strike truck convoys carrying Red Bull energy drinks. But the nation that disrupted Iran‘s nuclear program with the Stuxnet virus clearly has some cyberwarfare capabilities of its own, plus a thriving cybersecurity industry. an aggressive national intelligence service in the Mossad, and a general willingness to respond ruthlessly when it feels its national interests are threatened.

Even if Israel does respond, they may find that it’s much easier to hunt Hamas missile launchers than a loosely organized group of hackers. But where the U.S. treats hacking as a law enforcement issue, if Anonymous crosses a red line (there are lots of those in the Middle East), then Israel may treat this as a national security issue. And the rules and the methods of that game are a lot tougher

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