Israel wants cyber 'Iron Dome' to counter rising attacks

Hacking attempts targeting Israeli companies jumped by 137 per cent in the first three months of 2022

Israel's Iron Dome aerial defence system is used to intercept rockets mostly launched from the Gaza Strip. AFP
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Israel's government on Monday ordered communications firms to step up their cybersecurity efforts after a rise in attempted hacking attacks.

The initiative is an effort to protect the country’s critical assets from what officials say are increasingly frequent cyber attacks.

The mandate, made jointly by the Communications Ministry and National Cyber Directorate, sets out a list of requirements that includes installing monitoring and control systems, while making boards of directors responsible for the completion of cybersecurity plans.

The ministry declined to elaborate on what penalties might be enforced on firms that fail to meet the requirements.

“We are trying to put the right standard on communications companies in order to protect Israel and create a kind of 'Iron Dome' from cybersecurity attacks. We are suffering from thousands of cyber attacks every year,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said.

The Iron Dome anti-missile system, which first went into operation in April 2011, was designed to intercept and destroy rockets from the Gaza Strip.

Mr Hendel said that risks continue to mount as digitisation grows.

“Communications networks are an attractive target for cyber attacks by hostile elements,” Mr Hendel said, citing potential damage or shutdown of services and leakage of information being stored.

The announcement came after attempted cyber attacks in Israel jumped 137 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared to a year earlier. The attacks came primarily in the insurance, education, healthcare, government and manufacturing sectors, said cybersecurity firm, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.

Some organisations came under attack more than 1,400 times on a weekly basis, compared with 750 times per week last year, the company said.

Gaby Portnoy, Israel's new cybersecurity chief, said that in the last month alone, there had been a sharp rise in attacks that tried to bring down websites in Israel. He accused Iranians of carrying out many of the attacks.

Last month, Mr Protonoy said, a denial-of-service attack aimed at bringing down government sites began through telecom providers but failed.

In October, hackers breached an Israeli hospital in an apparent ransomware attack.

Mr Portnoy said Israeli telecoms firms had very good cyber security, but that the new regulations, which include a higher level of supervision, would be an improvement.

Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp., Israel’s largest telecommunication company, said it was still examining the government’s requirements and declined to comment further. A company representative said it already meets strict cyber regulations.

Iranian plots

Israel's internal security agency on Monday accused Iran of using a fake Facebook profile to try and get Israelis to collect information and harm people in their country.

Shin Bet's allegation comes days after Israel claimed that Iran had plotted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, as global powers seek to revive a nuclear deal with Tehran.

Israel claimed at the weekend it had "foiled" alleged bids by Iran "to assassinate a US general in Germany, a journalist in France and an Israeli diplomat in Turkey".

The plots "were ordered, approved and funded by the senior leadership of the Iranian regime, and were intended to be executed by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)", said a statement from the prime minister's office.

A man, named as Mansour Rasuli, was detained and interrogated by Mossad agents in Iran and allegedly confessed he had been tasked by the Islamic republic to carry out the killings, it said. Rasuli was then freed.

The premier's office refused to provide further details and there was no immediate reaction from Iran.

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Updated: May 03, 2022, 9:32 AM