Israel emerges unscathed from global cyber attack

Israeli infrastructure has so far emerged unscathed from the weekend cyber attack that hit institutions and infrastructure around the world.

After the scope of a global cyber attack over the weekend became apparent, Israel’s cyber authority upgraded its alert level and boosted security, particularly surrounding its crucial water, power and health systems.

Speaking at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel has yet to be affected.

“We are in the midst of a global cyberattack; almost 100 countries have been affected. As of now, in Israel, there have not been any attacks against our vital infrastructures. The other attacks have been minor so far,” Netanyahu said, while warning that “everything could change.”

Several years ago, Israel established a defense network against cyber attacks together with the National Cyberdefense Authority, based on the understanding that the world is facing a new form of threat.

“There will yet be many developments and we will need to invest more resources in order to ensure that the State of Israel, vis-à-vis both its defense and civilian sectors, has the necessary defensive measures against this new type of threat,” he added.

Last month, Israel fended off a massive cyberattack on its infrastructure, which originated from Iranian hackers working for the Islamic Republic.

A huge extortion cyberattack hit dozens of nations over the weekend, holding computer data for ransom at hospitals, telecommunications firms and other companies. The attack appeared to exploit a vulnerability purportedly identified for use by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and later leaked to the internet.

The attack hit Britain’s health service, forcing affected hospitals to close wards and emergency rooms. Related attacks were reported in Spain, Portugal Romania and Russia.

Two security firms — Kaspersky Lab and Avast — said they had identified the malware behind the attack in upward of 70 countries, although both said the attack has hit Russia hardest.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, part of the GCHQ electronic intelligence agency, said it was working with police and the health system to investigate the attack.

A ransomware attack encrypts data on infected computers and demands payment, usually via the digital currency bitcoin, to release it. Ransomware attacks are on the rise around the world, and experts warn that online extortion attempts by hackers are a growing menace.

Hospitals, with their often outdated IT systems and trove of confidential patient data, are a particularly tempting target.

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Some 200,000 users from 150 countries have been hit by the attack, Europol said.

“The European Cybercrime Centre, EC3, at Europol is working closely with affected countries cybercrime units and key industry partners to mitigate the threat and assist victims,” Europol stated.

Europol added that the attack is “at an unprecedented level and will require a complex international investigation to identify the culprits.”

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
AP contributed to the report.