Polish electric company looks to Israel as ‘partner in fighting cyber-crime’

Despite strained ties over Holocaust bill, 2 countries sign agreement; visiting Polish delegation to tour 10 cybersecurity firms and the National Cyber Institute

The Cyberbit Cyber-Security simulation range (Courtesy Cyberbit)
The Cyberbit Cyber-Security simulation range (Courtesy Cyberbit)

The Israel Electric Corporation signed an agreement with Poland’s electricity concern according to which Israel will provide assistance and technology to the Polish company on protecting its electricity infrastructure from cyber-attacks.

A delegation sponsored by Poland’s Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne, headed by CEO Eryk Kłossowski, touched down in Israel last week to sign the cooperation agreement under the auspices of the Cyber Divison of the Israel Export Institute.

The move came in the wake of heightened tensions between Israel and Poland over the latter’s new law criminalizing criticism of the Polish nation for wartime crimes against Jews.

It was Poland that initiated contacts with the Export Institute, seeking help in defending its infrastructure from cyber-attacks, the Israeli organization said. After discussion with the Israelis, the Polish firm decided that a visit to Israel was in order. While here, they will be visiting with at least 10 Israeli cybersecurity firms, and touring the National Cyber Institute.

The delegation will also visit the Cybersecurity Training and Simulation Range run by Israeli firm Cyberbit, where cybersecurity personnel get exposure to the latest real-world cyber-threats in a controlled and sequestered environment, to improve their hands-on skills. The center, which can simulate large-scale virtual networks and attacks based on real-world incidents, can also pinpoint system vulnerabilities and help users develop countermeasures and improved protocols for dealing with cyber-attacks on critical network systems, according to Cyberbit.

The vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure networks was highlighted last week when Israeli cybersecurity firm RadiFlow discovered that a hacker had invaded a European water company’s SCADA — automated supervisory control and data acquisition network generally used to manage infrastructure networks like electrical grids and water distribution systems — in order to mine cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency malware attacks, also known as “crypto-jacking,” increases device CPU and network bandwidth consumption, slowing down the system by stealing computing power. This, in turn, reduces the control a critical infrastructure operator has over its operations and slows down its response times to operational problems. Far from just an annoyance, these slowdowns can result in tragedy – such as if the system cannot direct resources when a large amount of water is needed at one location or point in time, for example when accessing fire hydrants to fight a blaze.

If it could happen at a water distribution firm, it could happen at an electric company, or any other critical infrastructure organization, according to Yehonatan Kfir, CTO at Radiflow. “Cryptocurrency malware attacks involve extremely high CPU processing and network bandwidth consumption, which can threaten the stability and availability of the physical processes of a critical infrastructure operator. While it is known that ransomware attacks have been launched on OT networks, this new case of a cryptocurrency malware attack on an OT network poses new threats as it runs in stealth mode and can remain undetected over time.”

The Polish electric company, with some 40 million customers, hopes to avoid a similar fate, said Kłossowski. Working with the IEC, “we gain an experienced partner, effective in fighting cyber-crime. This is extremely important at a time when cyber-criminals and cyber-terrorists develop cooperation among themselves and create more and more advanced tools of attacks,” he added.

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