Cyberattack crashes Israeli government websites

Access restored after denial-of-service attack

Man typing at his laptop computer at night

A cyberattack crashed a number of Israeli government websites on Monday, according to the country’s cyber officials.

The Israel National Cyber Directorate blamed the outages on a denial-of-service or DDoS attack. Such incidents typically involve outside attackers directing waves of inauthentic traffic at a website, temporarily rendering it inaccessible.

The ministries of health, justice, welfare were affected, as was the prime minister’s office, according to Haaretz, which quoted a source as describing the incident as the largest ever cyber attack carried out against Israel.

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel convened a meeting with officials at his office, and communications companies took steps to return service to normal.

Access to the websites was restored later on Monday.

The attack hit websites using the ".gov.il" domain, which is used for all government websites except for those related to defence, the security establishment said.

Officials did not immediately say who might be behind the cyberattack.

Mike Sexton, a cyber and Middle East policy expert, called this sort of denial-of-service attack unsophisticated, but something that nonetheless requires significant resources.

"Israel and Iran have recently been engaged in a low-level cyber tit-for-tat, so Iran is an obvious source to attribute, but we should not jump to conclusions," Mr Sexton told The National.

"Iran possesses much more sophisticated capabilities, so I think it would be unusual for them to use this sort of primitive attack."

He noted that Israel has now taken steps to support the international sanctions regime targeting Russia, where it had previously remained neutral and acted as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

"This kind of attack is very characteristic of Russian patriotic hackers. We saw them use this same kind of attack against the Estonian government in 2006," he said.

Gil Messing, spokesman for Israel-based Check Point Software Technologies, said it was unlikely any significant damage was caused.

“This is usually done to send a message and create a lot of buzz. It isn’t necessarily an infiltration or grabbing of information,” he told Bloomberg.

Updated: March 14, 2022, 11:16 PM
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