Most recent news on hacking has centered on China's data theft from U.S. companies. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters have drawn much less attention, even though in late March they temporarily disabled the online banking systems of American Express and Wells Fargo Bank, both major U.S. financial players. The inspiration for the attacks is instructive.
Izz al-Din al-Qassam was a Syrian preacher of jihad killed in a guerilla attack against the British in 1935. He inspired the PLO's Yasser Arafat and the Islamic Resistance Movement, the military wing of Hamas, is named after him. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters first launched their campaign the week of September 11, 2012, when jihadists attacked U.S. embassies in several countries, most notably Libya, where they killed four Americans including ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The pretext was not any U.S. diplomatic or military action – indeed, the United States had aided anti-Gadaffi Libyan rebels – but an internet video "Innocence of Muslims," reportedly portraying the prophet Muhammad as a fraud. Few had seen the trailer, which Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, called "disgusting and reprehensible." Susan Rice, president Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, claimed the Libya attack was "spontaneous – not a premeditated response" to "this very offensive video that was disseminated." She did not say by whom.