Israel Hacking of Iranian port is the last salvo in exchange for cyberattacks


TEL AVIV – Israel launched a cyber attack on May 9 that disrupted operations at a major port in Iran, according to senior intelligence officials and Middle East experts who are kept informed of secret Israeli actions In the region.

The attack on the computer systems at the port of Shahid Rajaee in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz had a limited scope, creating congestion in delivery trucks and some delays in shipping, but without causing substantial or lasting damage.

Israel and Iran have recently engaged in an exchange of attempted and successful cyberattacks, and the goal of Israel’s relatively limited effort at the port, according to intelligence services, was to send a message to Tehran: do not not target Israeli infrastructure.

The hacking of the port’s computers came in direct response, said experts familiar with the decision-making process, to an Iranian cyber attack on an Israeli water installation last month.

Israeli officials initially decided that the country should not respond to the attack on the water system, the sources said, since its effect would have been minor even if it had been successful.

But when the story of the attempted attack was published in the Israeli media, government officials, led by Naftali Bennett in his final days as Minister of Defense, thought that Israel should react the same way targeting Iranian civilian infrastructure and spreading this story to international news. media.

A security company that investigated discovered that malware had caused the arrest. As water is defined as “critical infrastructure” in Israel, the incident has been reported to the Israeli National Directorate of Cybercrime and other intelligence agencies in Israel.

According to Israeli experts familiar with the investigation, Israeli officials identified the malware as coming from one of the offensive cyber units of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran.

Although some unprotected pumps connected to the Internet are not properly protected, the establishment’s computer system identified the malfunction, restarted the pump and no damage or interference with the water supply of residents and farmers in the region has not been saved.

The attack and its quality were described as “miserable” by an intelligence official.

The main pressure for an Israeli counter-response came from Mr. Bennett, the outgoing Defense Minister, who had advocated an affirmative line against Iran during his seven months in power, both in his actions and in his public statements.

The site in Iran has been specifically chosen as a non-central target, with the intention of sending a warning that the attack on Israeli civilian infrastructure will not go unanswered and crosses a red line, intelligence officials said. .

Activity at the port of Shahid Rajaee has been severely hampered by US sanctions imposed on Iran after the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal. No more than 20 cargo ships reach it each month.

Shortly after the cyber attack began, the port authorities detected it. They failed to fix it immediately, but switched to manual unloading and loading management.

The moderate nature of recent cyber attacks suggests that both parties want to avoid escalation.

An intelligence official said that Israel hopes the attack on the port will end this cyber exchange, but that according to an assessment of the intelligence, the Revolutionary Guards will respond by attacking Israel again.

In a ceremony on Tuesday evening, General Aviv Kochavi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, alluded to the cyber attack on the Iranian port. “We will continue to use a diverse range of military tools and unique methods of warfare to wound the enemy,” he said.

While we are doing everything in our power to avoid injuring civilians, the enemy is doing everything possible to harm civilians, “he said, adding,” The dozens of strikes we have carried out, recently and in the past, have already proven their superiority. Nature of IDF Intelligence and Firing Capabilities “

Ronen Bergman reported from Tel Aviv, and David M. Halbfinger from Jerusalem.


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