Knesset stymies major cyber attack

Website suffers no interruptions, staff still countering hacking attempts

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Knesset members using a computer in 2009. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Knesset members using a computer in 2009. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Knesset successfully fended off a severe cyber attack on the parliament’s computer system Sunday night, a spokesman said.

According to  Yotam Yakir, all the attacks were countered by the Knesset cybersecurity staff, with the assistance of other experts. Knesset CEO Ronen Plot praised his team for their performance in the face of the attack.

“It is important to note that the Knesset’s website was not harmed in any way and is operating normally,” a statement released by the Knesset read. “Knesset staff are continuing to track the attack closely with a reinforced team.”

Hackers have targeted the Knesset website in the past, but those attempts also failed.

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

“We are aiming to build a ‘digital Iron Dome,’” 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. Israeli hackers, meanwhile, said they had compromised the computers of Iran’s Airtour Airlines.

“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.

During Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza in November, 2012, hackers from the group Anonymous launched #OpIsrael, promising to take down over 40 Israeli government and military websites. The group managed to disrupt service briefly on a number of minor sites, and faced a vigorous counterattack from Israeli hackers.

David Shamah contributed to this report.

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