Israel's Electric Authority slammed with 'severe' cyberattack

The country is fighting off an attack across the department, with some systems still down.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Israel's Electric Authority has revealed its systems have been the target of a "severe cyberattack" which, while under control, is yet to be fully repelled.

The country's Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told attendees at the Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv that steps are being taken to mitigate the attack. While the ministry is "already handling it," some systems are still down, local publication the Times of Israel reports.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the attack was detected on Monday as the country dealt with a cold snap resulting in record-breaking electricity consumption levels as temperatures dropped to below freezing.

The viral cyberattack, having infected systems belonging to the authority -- a department of the Ministry of Energy -- forced employees to freeze systems while the malware is eradicated.

Thankfully a separate entity to the country's state-owned utility Israel Electric and therefore not targeting the grid directly, the department is still a critical target for Israel's energy systems as the institution acts as a broker for electricity rates and imposes regulations on energy trade and usage.

Steinitz commented:

"We are handling the situation and I hope that soon, this very serious event will be over ... but as of now, computer systems are still not working as they should.

This is a fresh example of the sensitivity of infrastructure to cyberattacks, and the importance of preparing ourselves in order to defend ourselves against such attacks."

No details concerning potential suspects -- whether they be individuals or a state-sponsored group -- have been revealed.

Last year, the Israeli National Cyber Authority warned the country was due a damaging cyberattack. In July, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said cyberattacks are a "strategic threat" which "can paralyze and hurt no less than other threats in various fields and we must be prepared to for it on the national and international levels."

See also: Electricity grid defenses so weak that insurers deny protection against cyberattack

The government official is right. Cyberattacks which impact core services, such as electric grids and oil refineries can send a country into chaos. While high-profile attacks against retailers and service providers are often launched in order to grab valuable data, attacks against utilities may take place purely to cause disruption -- and may have a political reason at the core.

In January, Ukraine's electric grid was shut down by hackers , resulting in an outage which left hundreds of thousands of homes without power.

In November, hacktivist collective Anonymous took on Israeli websites as part of OpIsrael, a digital protest against attacks in Gaza. The campaign resulted in the takedown of The bank of Jerusalem, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web domain and at least 600 other websites forced off the Internet grid.

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