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'Cyber attacks didn't harm vital systems'
Shin Bet said to be following recent bout of cyber attacks on Israeli websites closely. Minister Edelstein warns of virtual war; Minister Eitan says there's no need to panic
Cyber-safe? None of Israel's vital online systems were compromised in the recent series of cyber attacks on Israeli websites, Shin Bet sources told Ynet Monday.

 

The National Information Security Authority (NISA), which operates by proxy of the Israel Security Agency, has been following the various hacking incidents of the past few weeks very closely.

 

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NISA maintains that the hackers have not been able to penetrate any of Israel's strategic infrastructure systems, such as the Water Authority, Israel Electric Co. and communication bodies.

 

Unlike private websites or even those used by credit card companies, vital infrastructure systems enjoy a higher level of encryption and protection. Strategic bodies are defined by the government and though each body is in charge of its own security, they are constantly monitored and guided by the Shin Bet, in an effort to thwart terror attacks – cyber and otherwise – and espionage attempts.

 

"There's a difference between someone hacking into an Israeli site and replacing its homepage with anti-Israel slogans in Arabic or stealing credit card information, and someone hacking into strategic systems that control water and power, or billions in state funds," a security source explained.

 

"Nowadays, you don't need missiles to terrorize a population of millions – all you need is to hack into a country's classified database and abuse it in a way that could lead to a catastrophe."

 

Monday morning saw the pro-Palestinian hackers group "Nightmare" breach the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al websites. Saudi hacker "0xOmar," who leaked the credit card information of tens of thousands of Israelis two weeks ago, warned that the group – which he was a part of – is capable of hacking any Israeli website and that the cyber attacks on Israel would only grow stronger.

 

Major banks and financial institutions in Israel are currently considering blocking online access for overseas users – a move First International Bank of Israel and Discount Bank have already applied. A banking system official told Ynet that given the recent cyber attacks, such drastic measures are necessary, even at the expense of inconveniencing clients.

 

Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein warned that "An escalation in cyber attacks can become a real threat to Israel's stability. The virtual war on Israel is a concrete threat to Israel's security.

 

"Today it's hacking credit card companies and tomorrow it will be stealing security information and harming infrastructures. Some say that lending this too much importance is paranoia, but as we saw this morning – these are anti-Israel acts of violence and outright anti-Semitism that aim to destabilize Israel," he said.

 

Still, Minister of Improvement of Government Service Michael Eitan (Likud) attempted to downplay the severity of the situation: "There is no need to panic. Israel's strategic infrastructure was not harmed.

 

"The worst damage this attack can do is to cause an overreaction that will diminish the flow of online information and services. Just like you don't stop traffic for a car accident, we shouldn’t stop developing online services over such hacks," he said.

 

Israel, he added, "is an advanced technological state and as such it may be more vulnerable to such attacks, which means that the government and State authorities tasked with maintaining information security for vital infrastructure must exercise extra caution."

 

 

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