Report: German missiles on Syria border given ‘foreign’ commands
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Report: German missiles on Syria border given ‘foreign’ commands

Patriot defense system stationed on Turkish side of border receives ‘unexplained commands’ in suspected cyber attack

Dutch military trucks -- carrying NATO's Patriot missile defense system to protect Turkey in case neighboring Syria launches an attack -- being unloaded at Incirnik base, near Adana, Turkey, Thursday, January 24, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Rob van Eerden, Dutch Defense Ministry, HO)
Dutch military trucks -- carrying NATO's Patriot missile defense system to protect Turkey in case neighboring Syria launches an attack -- being unloaded at Incirnik base, near Adana, Turkey, Thursday, January 24, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Rob van Eerden, Dutch Defense Ministry, HO)

A Patriot missile defense battery operated by Germany on the Syrian-Turkish border received “unexplained commands” from a “foreign source,” sparking fears it has been hacked, German monthly Behördenspiegel reported Tuesday.

It was unclear who or what sent the commands, and the report did not elaborate on what effect this had on the missiles.

Stationed under the NATO pact, the German missiles are located along NATO member Turkey’s porous border with Syria.

If true, the possibility that Patriot missiles are vulnerable to cyber attacks is cause for concern in Israel, which actively operates the US-manufactured battery — although the military plans to gradually scale back use of the Patriot in favor of the Israeli-made David’s Sling missile defense system, set to become operational this year.

A conceivable cyber attack on such a battery would likely be for one of two purposes: either to remotely commandeer the battery to launch attacks, or to steal sensitive intelligence information about the system.

Last year, during the course of the 50-day Operation Protective Edge, Patriot batteries stationed in Israel downed two Hamas-operated drones sent into the country from Gaza; later in August, the system brought down a Syrian drone over the Golan Heights, and, in September, it intercepted a Syrian Sukhoi SU-24 warplane that had crossed into Israeli airspace near Quneitra.

The missiles were hastily brought to Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, ostensibly to protect against missile attacks from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq — but the system proved ineffective, intercepting only one missile.

Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.

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