Israeli Officer: Iran Involved in Cyber Attacks During Gaza War

Hackers penetrated the official IDF Twitter account and tweeted the fabrication that there was fear of radioactive seepage after two rockets hit the Dimona nuclear reactor.

Gili Cohen
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An IDF course for cyber-defense in Ramat Gan. Credit: Alon Ron
Gili Cohen

Israeli military and civilian websites were attacked by hackers throughout Operation Protective Edge, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer told reporters Sunday, describing the cyber warfare as “rather broad in scope.”

In one case, he said, hackers penetrated the official IDF Twitter account and tweeted the fabrication that there was fear of radioactive seepage after two rockets hit the Dimona nuclear reactor. A group called the Syrian Electronic Army took credit for that action. The army’s Computer Services Directorate is planning to review the online security envelope of the IDF’s official websites and social media accounts, the officer said.

On the other hand, the officer stressed, the military’s internal computer systems used for its operations were not subject to any significant attack. Those responsible for military cyber security were prepared for the fighting in Gaza and reduced the interfaces between the military software and the civilian Internet network to protect it from hacking, he said.

“All told, the systems are well protected, but this was an operation from the perspective of our cyber-security people.”

At the same time, during the operation there were a number of significant cyber attacks directed at Israel’s Internet infrastructure, which the officer said were coordinated by Iran.

“They made a very intense cyber effort during the operation unlike any we had seen before, in terms of its scope and the type of targets,” the senior officer said. “These were communication infrastructure targets in the State of Israel’s civilian realm.”

During the fighting the Shin Bet security service reported that all the hacking attacks on local Internet sites had been rebuffed, and that they had been conducted to mark “Jerusalem Day” in Iran, which is the last Friday of Ramadan (July 25 this year). According to the Shin Bet, “the objective of the attack was to block access to a large number of Israeli sites at the same time and for a lengthy period.”

The Computer Services Directorate seeks to establish a body dedicated to the entire issue of cyber security, which is now divided between it and Military Intelligence. According to the senior officer, “The IDF must do something to better organize [activities in this realm] to make our cyber capabilities more effective.” Early this year, an officer in the directorate, Col. Nati Cohen, called for the establishment of a cyber command that would be prepared to fend off major cyber attacks against Israel.

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