Cyber warfare

Iran-linked Hackers Claim to Have Infiltrated IDF, Saudi Databases

Group calling itself the Islamic Cyber Resistance says it stole the personal details of more than 2,000 top Israeli officers and Defense Ministry personnel; details of 1,000 Saudi officers also said to be taken.

Aliyana Traison
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Aliyana Traison

An Iran-linked hacker group calling itself the Islamic Cyber Resistance claims it infiltrated the servers of the Israel Defense Forces earlier this week and extracted the personal details of top army officers.

The group posted the information, which it says includes job titles, passwords, postal and email addresses, phone numbers and military codes of more than 2,000 Israeli officers onto its website.

The list also included around 200 names and public and home phone numbers of senior Defense Ministry officials, as well as of employees of defense contractors and industries, yet some of the numbers were outdated.

It said that it carried out the cyber attack to avenge the December 4 assassination of a Hezbollah leader, Hassan Laqiss, an operation that the Lebanon-based militant group blamed on Israel.

The hacker collective appears to have branches in Algeria and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran. The group also said that it had hacked into the servers of the Saudi army and stole information pertaining to 1,000 Saudi officers. All told, it claims to have stolen about 5,000 classified documents.

The Iranian Fars news agency was the first major outlet to report on the incident, on December 16, publishing an excel document containing the files taken by the collective.

Iran and Israel have accused one another repeatedly of carrying out cyber attacks on their respective systems.

Iran has placed the blame on Israel for crippling attacks on its public network and for spyware viruses used against its nuclear program. After the Stuxnet virus damaged the uranium enrichment centrifuges at the Natanz plant in 2009, a sabotage attributed to a joint operation of Israeli and American intelligence communities, Tehran established a cyber command with defensive and offensive capabilities.

Israel on its part has increased its cyber vigilance against attempts by Iranian hackers.

Over the last year, the U.S. has accused Iran of cyber attacks against its banks, while Saudi Arabia has placed the blame on Iranian hackers for a serious cyber assault on computers of its national oil company, Aramco.

In another hack attack this week, at least three Israeli banks received emails from an unknown individual threatening to release the personal details of millions of customers unless a payment of tens of thousands of shekels was made via the virtual online currency Bitcoin. The banks filed police complaints and reported the incidents to the Bank of Israel.

Over the last few years, Islamist hackers affiliated with the Anonymous collective have launched a number of cyber attacks on Israel, managing to infiltrate and even temporarily topple some websites during the attack.

Haaretz's website was infiltrated last April in an attack termed "Operation Israel" that the hackers claimed was meant to "wipe Israel off the map." The Education Ministry website, the Israel Military Industries website, the Israel Police's website, and about 100 smaller websites were also infiltrated; some 19,000 Israeli Facebook accounts were said to be hacked in the attack as well.

Another attack, in September, paralyzed the national road network in the northern city of Haifa, halting key operations for two days and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. A cybersecurity expert said then that the attack seemed also to be the work of a group like Anonymous.

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