i24NEWS – Israel says major cyber-attack targeting civilian networks thwarted

i24NEWS – Israel says major cyber-attack targeting civilian networks thwarted
Report quotes official as saying coordinated attacks may have been directed by a foreign country

Israel’s Cyber Defense Authority on Wednesday announced that it had uncovered the existence of an organized series of cyber-attacks with some 120 targets – a coordinated attack that a senior Israeli official told the Haaretz newspaper was believed to have been directed a foreign government.

According to Haaretz, the attack were centered on civilian research and development.

The attacker or attackers sent emails to organizations, government ministries, public institutions, and private individuals, said the authority. The emails appeared to be from a legitimate organization and used a falsified security certificate.

Rafi Franco, a senior official at the cyber authority, told Haaretz that attack was sophisticated and used malware, which was not caught by anti-virus software, embedded in Microsoft Word documents attached to authentic emails from a legitimate institution.

He further said that only three of the targets opened the malware.

“We assess that it was just the first wave,” he told the newspaper.

The authority published cyber-defense guidelines to blunt the attack.

In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday announced the creation of a National Center for Cyber Education to train young people in a sector he views as key.

Its aim will be to “increase the number and raise the level of young Israelis for their future integration into the Israeli security services, industry and the academic world,” he said in a statement released by his office.

This year Netanyahu opened the 2017 CyberTech conference in Tel Aviv by addressing the importance of cyber security and Israel’s place as a world leader in the industry and one of the world’s top security powers.

“We have met the goal I set of becoming one of the top five cyber security powers,” Netanyahu said.

He urged the international community for more investment in the field of cyber security as it becomes a growing international concern and one of the main topics in the tech industry.

“Every system can be hacked,” and “what you see today is going to get a lot worse if we don’t band together,” Netanyahu said, in reference to claims that Iran “attempts to hack many systems in the region.”


Cyber security company says 'nation-state' may be behind hacking of Saudis

Also Wednesday, US-based cyber security firm McAfee said increasingly sophisticated hackers possibly linked to a foreign nation aimed to disrupt key organisations in Saudi Arabia.

It did not name the possible attacker but US intelligence officials said they suspected a link to the kingdom’s regional rival Iran after the Shamoon virus struck the Saudi energy sector in 2012.

Renewed Shamoon campaigns that began late last year attacked a wider range of targets including the public and financial sectors in Saudi Arabia, McAfee said in a blog post dated Tuesday.

The increase in sophistication suggests “the comprehensive operation of a nation-state,” it said.

“This campaign was significantly larger, well-planned, and an intentional attempt to disrupt key organisations and the country of Saudi Arabia,” McAfee’s blog said.

The attackers entered their targets with phishing emails that allowed “reconnaissance” before initiating the strike which McAfee said is ongoing.

In January a senior Saudi telecommunications official was quoted as saying the kingdom’s computer security systems are vulnerable to the “Shamoon 2” virus.

Among its reported victims was a division of the labor ministry.