Israel said Wednesday that Iranian security forces, in collaboration with Hezbollah, have recently carried out cyberattacks targeting United Nations peacekeeping operations in Lebanon.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the attacks were intended to steal materials relating to activities and deployment by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for use by Hezbollah. "This is another attack by Iran and Hezbollah on the citizens of Lebanon, on the stability of Lebanon," he said, speaking at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University.
Established in 1978, UNIFIL patrols Lebanon's southern border. It is charged with monitoring the ceasefire that ended the last war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
UNIFIL said it was the first it had heard of the attacks.
"UNIFIL and the UN take cybersecurity very seriously and have robust measures in place to protect our data. We are aware of media reports of comments by the Israeli defense minister today but we have not received any direct information on the alleged incident," its media office told Reuters.
Gantz added that Israel has seen other instances of hackers acting on Iran's behalf against it and other countries: "The ‘new proxies’ are terrorists with a keyboard who are not dissimilar from fighters in other terrorist organizations. We know who they are."
Gantz hinted that Israel – which is widely believed to have waged cyberwar against Iran's nuclear facilities and other infrastructure – may retaliate physically against enemy hackers.
He said Israel has hit back against such hackers in the past, and that they "are in our crosshairs today, and not just in cyberspace. No assault directed at the citizens of Israel will be ignored." He added that the responsibility for the attacks lies both with the hackers themselves and with the country funding and dispatching them.
"There is a variety of possible responses to cyber-attacks – in and outside of the cyber-domain," he said.
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Gantz also emphasized the importance of partnering with other countries in such efforts, noting that Israel's regional anti-Iran cooperation is being expanded to include resources specifically aimed at defending against cyberattacks.
Earlier this month, sirens sounded in the southern Israeli city of Eilat and parts of Jerusalem due to a cyberattack on local public address systems, according to Israel's Home Front Command, in what was being investigated as a possible Iranian attack.
The past year has seen an increase in suspected Iranian cyberattacks on Israel, as well as increased attempts by Iran to enlist new agents against Israel.
Israel has also accused Hezbollah gunmen of setting up clandestine positions at the border in defiance of UNIFIL. Lebanese officials say Israel continues air force overflights of their territory in violation of the ceasefire.
Reuters contributed to this report.