Report: Iran tried to infiltrate Israel’s rocket alert system
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Report: Iran tried to infiltrate Israel’s rocket alert system

Senior Israeli cyber official tells Bloomberg that the military detected and thwarted 2017 attempt by Tehran to hack country’s missile warnings

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative. Children run toward a bomb shelter in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi during a November 2012 military operation in Gaza, known as Pillar of Defense. (Yuval Haker/Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative. Children run toward a bomb shelter in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi during a November 2012 military operation in Gaza, known as Pillar of Defense. (Yuval Haker/Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military detected and blocked an attempt by Iran to infiltrate its missile warning system in 2017, preventing a potentially life-threatening situation in which Israeli citizens could no longer rely on the sirens that alert them to an incoming attack, a senior cyber defense official told the Bloomberg news outlet on Monday.

The Iranian effort was first spotted in 2017 and, once its target was understood, the Israel Defense Forces worked to block the cyber attack and track the hackers, Brig. Gen. (res.) Noam Sha’ar, the outgoing head of the cyber defense division of the military’s Cyber Defense Directorate, told the website.

“We dealt with them and built another barrier and another monitoring system to make sure we could stop them if they tried again,” Shaar told Bloomberg.

Israeli and Western defense officials have long warned that Iran was a world leader in cyber warfare capabilities, having invested considerable money and resources in the field.

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Islamic Republic “attacks Israel on a daily basis.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the CyberTech conference on January 29, 2019, in Tel Aviv (Gilad Kavalerchik)

“We monitor these attacks, we see these attacks and we foil these attacks all the time,” Netanyahu told a gathering of government officials, cybersecurity experts and entrepreneurs at the CyberTech conference.

Meanwhile, Tehran’s nuclear program has allegedly been the target of several attacks by Israel and the United States, including the powerful Stuxnet virus, which took aim at Iran’s nuclear program, according to foreign reports.

Also last month, cybersecurity specialists warned of large-scale attacks on key aspects of the internet’s infrastructure, threatening the global system of web traffic, with some pointing the finger at Iran.

According to cybersecurity firm FireEye, the attacks might date back to at least 2017 and appeared to be coming from Iran.

The list of targets included website registrars and internet service providers, particularly in the Middle East, according to FireEye’s senior manager of cyber espionage analysis, Ben Read.

“We’ve seen primarily targeting of email names and passwords,” Read said last month. “There is evidence that it is coming out of Iran and being done in support of Iran.”

Israel’s cyber industry is second only to that of the US, taking 20 percent of the overall venture-backed cyber investments worldwide, according to an analysis by PitchBook and the Start-Up Nation Central database.

Shoshanna Solomon and AFP contributed to this report.

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