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Israeli government websites briefly down, is Iran to blame?

While Israeli officials have yet to assign blame, this might be part of the ongoing cyber & real-world aggression between the two countries

BIGSTOCK/Copyright: dolgachov
BIGSTOCK/Copyright: dolgachov

A string of Israeli government websites were hit by a cyberattack on Monday evening, but services were restored fairly quickly. Haaretz daily quoted an unnamed defense official, who said that while this was an extensive attack it was not sophisticated, and that it was likely done by a substantial threat actor or a nation-state.

“In the past few hours, a DDoS attack against a communications provider was identified. As a result, access to several websites, among them government websites, was denied for a short time. As of now, all of the websites have returned to normal activity,” the Israel National Cyber Directorate tweeted.

In a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, multiple connected online devices (botnets) flood the targeted website with fake traffic, thereby disrupting its normal traffic. By nature, it is a disruptive attack, but can also be used as a cover for other cyber operations such as espionage or data theft.

While Israeli officials have yet to assign blame to the source behind the attack, it might be part of the ongoing cyber and real-world aggression between the two countries.

About 30 minutes after the Israeli websites went down, Iranian state TV reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) allegedly thwarted an attempt by Mossad to sabotage its nuclear facility at Fordo, arresting several individuals.

In the early hours of Sunday, a dozen ballistic missiles launched from Iran have struck Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurdish counter terrorism department confirmed that the target was the US consulate in Erbil, and that there was no substantial damage.

Iranian news agency Mehr cited uncredited reports that in addition to the US consulate, the missiles were aimed at “training centers run by the Zionist regime’s spy agency, Mossad.”

This morning (Monday), the Tehran Times featured a lengthy front-page article titled “Iran won’t remain silent in the face of Israeli actions,” in which an alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corpssource discussed the strike, which came “in response to a recent Israeli drone attack in the Mahidasht region in western Iran.

Last week, Iranian media claimed at an Israeli air strike in Syria killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard Corps – which pledged to retaliate.

“Israel needs a cyber Iron dome,” said State Comptroller, Matanyahu Englman, in a statement following the breach reports.

This is not the first time Englman has used this phrase.

In October 2021, following an attack on Israel’s Hille Yaffe Medical Center, the Comptroller announced that his office is conducting an in-depth review of cyber defense and resilience in critical and other sectors, warning that Israel is not prepared.

This warning was confirmed last week, when the office published reports pertaining to the Israel Electric Company and Central Election Committee, which showed a rather bleak picture.

“Israel still has a long way to go” with regards to cyber preparedness,” said the Comptroller. “The State of Israel is not sufficiently protected from cyber attacks!”

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