‘Ethical hacking’ courses proliferate in Gaza

Internet networks at cafes and popular rest houses scattered across the coast of the Gaza Strip have greatly benefited Mustafa al-Sayed (pseudonym), 29, from the Jabaliya refugee camp north of Gaza City. Since 2015, Sayed has been carrying out hacking and piracy activities along with a group of amateurs. By masking their IP addresses, they avoid being pursued by security services in Gaza and thus being held accountable.

Sayed received training courses in the field of information technology and programming seven years ago and specialized in what is known as “ethical hacking.” He told Al-Monitor that, along with a group of eight people, his goal is to make a profit — especially given the current economic conditions, the high unemployment rates among young people and the scarcity of job opportunities in the besieged enclave.

After Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, the enclave became a fertile environment for cybercrime. Also, the Palestinian Legislative Council was disrupted and later dissolved in 2021, leading to the failure to enact new legislation or even amend old legislation so that it is equipped to combat cybercrime.

Articles 43, 44 and 45 of the Palestinian Electronic Transactions Law No. 6 of 2013 stipulate that persons who illegally break into the computers of others and seize their systems or use their data unlawfully are penalized. The penalties range from imprisonment for one to 10 years and a fine ranging from 2,000 Jordanian dinars ($2,813) to 20,000 Jordanian dinars ($28,133).

Sayed pointed out that in the beginning, his work was based on the theft of some personal accounts on social networking sites in Gaza, the West Bank and abroad. He later turned toward hacking bank accounts and credit cards. During one of his operations in 2020, he gathered around $11,000 and $500 from bank accounts.

“I was able to hack international companies such as Microsoft, Intel and Amazon, in addition to piracy of airlines and seat reservations on flights for people in exchange for small amounts of money. For example, if a ticket is worth $700, it would be hacked for $300. This would save the buyer money. In the meantime, using VPN and TOR would make it difficult…