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National Insurance website briefly downed in cyberattack; no data accessed

Attack meant to shut down site, not breach databases; agency’s computer personnel respond by blocking all access from abroad

The National Insurance Institute offices in Jerusalem, October 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
The National Insurance Institute offices in Jerusalem, October 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Israel’s National Insurance Institute said Wednesday that its website had been hacked, causing it to go offline for several hours.

The social security agency said the attack was focused on loading information onto the site to shut it down, known as a denial-of-service attack, and not on accessing databases or information.

The situation was handled by the organization’s cyber and computer personnel, bringing the site back online after around two hours, a statement said

The agency later added that it had blocked access to the site from abroad, which was apparently the source of the attack.

Services for the general public at the agency’s offices continued as usual amid the attack.

In October, the National Cyber Directorate issued a general warning to Israeli businesses to be aware of potential cyberattacks, as the country faced an uptick in hacking attempts.

The warning came after an Israeli hospital faced a major ransomware cyberattack that crippled systems, and from which it could take several months to recover.

In July, cybersecurity firm Check Point reported that Israeli institutions are targeted by about twice as many cyberattacks as is average in other countries around the world, particularly the country’s health sector, which experiences an average of 1,443 attacks a week.

The most targeted sectors around the world, including in Israel, are education and research, followed by government and security organizations, and then health institutions, Check Point said.

The report found that, on average, one in every 60 Israeli organizations or firms is targeted every week with ransomware attacks, an increase of 30 percent over the rate in 2020.

Last month, the Black Shadow hacking group released what it said was the full database of personal user information from the Atraf website, an Israeli LGBTQ dating service and nightlife index.

The group also uploaded personal medical information for patients of Israel’s Machon Mor medical institute, including medical records of some 290,000 patients.

The two attacks amounted to one of Israel’s largest-ever privacy breaches.

Black Shadow is a group of Iran-linked hackers who use cyberattacks for criminal ends, according to Hebrew media reports.

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