Cyberattacks Waned Amid Iran Nuclear Talks, Israeli Officer Says

'If you want to catch a power during a break-in attempt, you have to be a power, and Israel is a cyberpower,' he says, giving rare glimpse into Israel's cyber efforts.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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A mock cyber attack scenario. Israel is an emerging power in the cyber security market.
A mock cyber attack scenario. Israel is an emerging power in the cyber security market. Credit: AP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

There were fewer cyberattacks around the world last year, probably a dividend of the Iran nuclear deal, a senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday.

“There was an understanding that there was going to be an agreement, and the players calmed down,” he told reporters.

Still, there were two significant episodes toward the end of the year – cyberattacks in Ukraine and one in Turkey. The latter foray disconnected the country from the Internet for 20 hours shortly after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet that ventured into its airspace.

The officer declined to comment on the identity of the attacker in the two cases.

Regarding attacks on military systems, Israeli observers believe that only two powers (they hinted the United States and Russia) have the ability to break into the IDF’s classified operational systems, the information branch in particular.

“If you want to catch a power [during a break-in attempt], you have to be a power, and Israel is a cyberpower,” the officer said.

Israel has established a cyberdefense brigade whose goal, as the officer described it, is “defense of the IDF’s abilities in the cybernetic and spectral dimension, and assistance to defending the cybernetic and state realm.”

Within this setup, the army has established a special cyber intervention team made up of conscripts and reservists.

“When there’s a cybernetic 9/11, they won’t ask questions,” he said. “This way there will be a fire squadron – even before there’s a fire.”

The army intends to expand the number of these teams to be able to cope with a large cyberattack.

Meanwhile, IDF officials believe that there are increasingly more attempts to gather intelligence about military activity on the Internet.

Classified units in Military Intelligence have discovered in recent months that “the significant assets,” as the officer put it, had not been hacked.

In addition, according to army estimates, there is a low probability that someone has hacked into closed military systems in which the attacker waits for the right moment to cause damage.

Army officials thus say they intend to switch over to a so-called cyber-thwarting policy; that is, to be proactive.

In April, Reuters reported that hackers had penetrated computer networks associated with the Israeli military in an espionage campaign that skillfully packaged existing attack software with trick emails, according to private security researchers.

The IDF said it had no knowledge of the alleged hacking.

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