“Rapid is not something that describes enough how fast and how crazy and hectic things are moving forward in cyberspace and I think we will remember this last month and May 2020 as a changing point in the history of modern cyber warfare,” he said in a video address to CybertechLive Asia, a digital international cyber conference.
“If the bad guys had succeeded in their plot we would now be facing, in the middle of the Corona crisis, very big damage to the civilian population and a lack of water and even worse than that,” he added.
Unna said the attempted hacking into Israel’s water systems marked the first time in modern history that “we can see something like this aiming to cause damage to real life and not to IT or data.”
Iran hasn’t commented on the attempted hacking and has played down the alleged reprisal on May 9 against the Shahid Rajaee port. Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s port and marine agency, told the semiofficial ILNA news agency that the attack failed to infiltrate into the agency’s systems and only damaged “several private sector systems.”
Israel has not officially commented on the attack against Iran, but in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, Amos Yadlin, a former head of military intelligence, said it was significant.
“The attack displayed the cyber ability of a world power. It appears that this was a clear Israeli message to Iran, don’t dare to touch civilian systems, the water and electricity systems in Israel, which were attacked this past month. You, the Iranians, are more vulnerable than we are,” he said.
Israeli cyber czar warns of more attacks from Iran
A cyber winter is coming and it will be faster than suspected, Israel’s cyber czar warned on Wednesday, a week after Iran tried hacking Israel’s water system.
In a recorded speech for a Cybertech conference event slated for Thursday and obtained by The Jerusalem Post, National Cyber Directorate chief Yigal Unna provided striking new details about the Islamic Republic’s hack and how Israel blocked it.
Unna neither confirmed nor denied that Israel launched a counter cyberattack against Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port on May 9, but, in unusually open remarks for a senior defense official, he strongly implied that Iran should be wary of attempting future attacks against Israeli civilian infrastructure.
“We will remember this last month, May 2020, as a changing point in the history of modern cyberwarfare... What we faced here in Israel... the attempted attack, synchronized and organized attack,” targeting civilian water infrastructure, “if it had been successful... we would now be facing in the middle of the corona crisis, a very big damage to the civilian population, a lack of water,” Unna said.
While Unna tiptoed around the issue of attributing the attack to Iran at an official level, he noted Fox News’s accusation against Iran and made it clear Israel was hacked by an enemy nation-state and not mere cyber criminals.
“It is not a gang... they gain nothing from it, no ransomware... it was specifically and very directly aiming to cause damage in the real life in the real arena through controllers, through SCADA [Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition, a computer system for gathering and analyzing real time data] through ICS [Industrial Control Systems] controllers, something that could have caused a lot of damage,” he explained.
Elaborating, he said, “this is the first time we can see something like that aiming to cause damage to real life, not to IT [Information Technology], not to data, which is pretty serious by itself in the modern world…part of some attack over Israel, over the national security of Israel, not to gain any financial benefit.”
Next, he said, “I’m saying... because it wasn’t one or two controllers. It was a... wide spectrum of attacks aiming specifically at energy and watering, and the only reason it failed was... our efforts, the INCD preparedness, the risk management that” the agency performs.
On the horizon, “we are now in the middle of preparing for the next phase to come because it will come eventually. Now... we managed to mitigate it and overcome it, but I’m afraid it’s only the sign of the first major attack of a new era, of humanitarian targets.”