Israeli Electricity Authority was hit by ransomware, power grid not affected

Yuval Steinitz, Israel's energy minister reported Israel's Electricity Authority, the regulator of the actual Israeli power company, was hit by a 'severe' cyber-attack. The power grid itself not affected in any way.

Israel is currently noticing a surge in electricity use due to a cold winter
Israel is currently noticing a surge in electricity use due to a cold winter

Just as Israel is undergoing record electricity consumption due to an exceptionally cold winter, energy minister Yuval Steinitz reported Ithat srael's Electricity Authority, the regulator of the actual Israeli power company, was hit by a ‘severe' cyber-attack.

The Times of Israel reported that while speaking at Cybertech 2016 in Tel Aviv, Steinitz said the attack was discovered on Monday, and that his Ministry was “already handling it,” along with the Israel National Cyber Bureau. Steinitz did not say whether Israel has identified any suspects behind the attack.

“The virus was already identified and the right software was already prepared to neutralize it,” he said. “We had to paralyse many of the computers of the Israeli Electricity Authority. 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.”

There have been some reports to indicate that this was an attack on Israel's power grid, but in a blog post the SANS institute quickly cleared up this misunderstanding of the situation, quoting an Israeli cyber-analyst called Eyal Sela who said, “the media reporting so far is misleading with regards to the context around the incident. The "Israel Electric Authority" the Minister mentioned, is in no way related to the networks of the Israeli electric companies, transmission, or distribution sites. The Israeli Electric Authority is a regulatory body of roughly 30 individuals and this "cyber attack" is only referencing their networks.”

Commenting by email to SCMagazineUK.com, Tim Erlin, director of security and risk at Tripwire said that, “This doesn't appear to be a direct attack on Israel's electric grid, like the one seen in Ukraine, but on the regulatory body called “The Electric Authority.” The difference is important as generation, transmission and distribution facilities are more likely to have direct impact on electricity supply than the authority that regulates them.

It's very responsible of Israel to hold off pointing fingers until there's sufficient information for accurate attribution.

It will be important for Israel to identify the objective of this attack, and determine whether the attacker succeeded. Given the Electric Authority's responsibilities, an attacker may have been after sensitive information to plan another attack or regulatory information that could provide an economic advantage later on. There might be a personal motive and the objective of disruption.”  

Meanwhile, Gil Shwed, CEO of Check Point Software Technologies had reported that Iran launched a cyber-attack which targeted Israeli army generals, human rights activists in the Arabian Gulf and scientists.

According to Shwed, the attack which began two months ago targeted 1,600 people worldwide. Speaking with Israeli Radio, Shwed said that the individuals were sent email messages which attempted to infect their computers with malware. Shwed went on to say that more than a quarter of the recipients opened the emails and as a result downloaded spyware.

Over the last two years, Israel has been targeted by several cyber-attacks. Officials say hackers affiliated with Hezbollah and the Iranian government were behind some of the infiltration attempts.

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