News / Science & Technology

Cyber Firm: Israeli Defense Computer Hacked by Tainted Email

Reuters
— Hackers broke into an Israeli defense ministry computer via an email attachment tainted with malicious software that looked like it had been sent by the country's Shin Bet secret security service, an Israeli cyber security firm said on Sunday.
      
Aviv Raff, chief technology officer at Seculert, said the hackers earlier this month temporarily took over 15 computers, one of which belonged to Israel's Civil Administration, the body that monitors Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territory.
 
Raff told Reuters that Palestinians were suspected to be behind the cyber attack, citing similarities to a cyber assault on Israeli computers waged more than a year ago from a server in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
 
While the latest attack was conducted from a server in the United States, experts noticed writing and composition similarities with the earlier attack, he said.
 
Israeli officials declined to comment on Raff's findings. “We are not commenting on it, we don't respond to such reports,” said one of the officials, Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the Civil Administration.
 
There was no immediate Palestinian comment on the report.
 
Securlet had not determined what the hackers did after the initial infection with “Xtreme RAT” software, Raff said. “All we know is at least one computer at the Civil Administration was in control of the attackers; what they did we don't know,” he said.
 
The Civil Administration is a unit of Israel's defense ministry that oversees the passage of goods between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians want as part of a separate state.
 
The administration also issues entry permits to Palestinians who work in Israel.
 
Defense contractors also hacked?
 
Raff declined to identify the other 14 computers targeted by the hackers. An Israeli source who spoke on condition of anonymity said these included companies involved in supplying Israeli defense infrastructure.
 
Based on Raff's analysis, the 15 computers were in the hackers' grip for at least several days after the Jan. 15 dispatch of the email, which included an attachment about ex-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who had just died.
 
Hacking activity has surged in the Middle East over the past three years as both governments and activist groups have targeted the military, other state agencies, critical infrastructure, businesses as well as dissidents and criminal groups in order to gain information about their operations and also disrupt them.
 
The email that burrowed into the Israeli defense ministry computer looked like it had been sent from the Shin Bet security service, Raff said.
 
Raff's firm was able to “sinkhole” the operation, tricking the Xtreme RAT software into communicating with servers that Seculert controlled in order to figure out which computers were infected and to deactivate the attack.
 
Xtreme RAT is a remote access trojan, which gives hackers complete control of an infected machine. They can steal information, load additional malicious software onto the network or use the compromised computer as a beachhead from which to conduct reconnaissance and attempt to gain deeper access into the network, Raff said.
 
Word of the cyber attack came a day before a three-day Israeli cybertech conference being held in Jerusalem, and almost immediately after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plugged Israeli technological advances at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
      
Raff denied there was any irony in the timing of his warning so soon after Netanyahu's remarks. “Unfortunately there is no such thing as 100 percent safety either when it comes to physical risks or information security,” he said.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid