Israel reportedly thwarts cyber attack from China

140 targets in defense, security industries receive Trojan-infested email seeking to steal information, according to Channel 2

IDF soldiers at a control board in the National Cyber Bureau (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
IDF soldiers at a control board in the National Cyber Bureau (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The Israeli security establishment thwarted a cyber attack and an attempt at industrial espionage originating in China, Channel 2 News reported Sunday.

Several weeks ago, some 140 senior figures across Israel’s leading security and defense industries received an email from a known German company in the field which turned out to contain a Trojan-horse virus, a form of malware instructed to copy information back to the source. The recipients included project managers and supervisors of highly sensitive, and even classified, projects.

The industries’ various defense systems identified the threat and shut it down, Channel 2 reported. An initial investigation uncovered the large number of people targeted in the field, while an additional check revealed that the sources of the threat were Chinese defense industries.

Operating procedures across the industries have been clarified to prevent any such incidents in the future, according to the report.

Earlier Sunday, an Associated Press report revealed a month ago, a major artery in Israel’s national road network in the northern city of Haifa suffered a cyber-attack, knocking key operations out of commission two days in a row and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

One expert, speaking on condition of anonymity because the breach of security was a classified matter, said a Trojan-horse attack targeted the security camera apparatus in the Carmel tunnels toll road on September 8.

The attack caused an immediate 20-minute lockdown of the roadway. The next day, the expert said, it shut down the roadway again during morning rush hour. It remained shut for eight hours, causing massive congestion.

The expert said investigators believe the attack was the work of unknown, sophisticated hackers, similar to the Anonymous hacking group that led attacks on Israeli websites in April. He said investigators determined it was not sophisticated enough to be the work of an enemy government like Iran.

In July, the Knesset fended off a severe cyber attack on the parliament’s computer system

Concerted hacking attempts are not new to Israel, nor is cybersecurity.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Cyber War Technology Conference held in Tel Aviv in June. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Cyber War Technology Conference held in Tel Aviv in June. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

“We are aiming to build a ‘digital Iron Dome,’” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in June. “This requires us to always stay one step ahead of our enemies, in an unending competition.”

The same month, Iran claimed that its hackers, members of the Syrian Electronic Army group, had broken into secure servers at Haifa Port — a claim that was dismissed by Israel when it was first raised.

“In recent months, we have identified a significant growth in the scope of cyber-attacks by Iran against Israel,” Netanyahu said at a June event sponsored by Tel Aviv University’s Yuval Ne’eman Workshop on Technology and Security. “These attacks are being conducted by Iran and its surrogates, Hezbollah and Hamas. Their targets are, of course, major systems and infrastructure, including electrical systems and water systems. But all areas of civilian life, as well as defense systems, are being targeted as well.

“And this trend will continue as we progress during the digital age,” added Netanyahu.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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