Cyberattack takes down Israeli government websites

It might be the largest digital attack against Israel to date.

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Jon Fingas
March 14, 2022 5:10 PM
Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett speaks during the Cyber Week event at the Tel Aviv university on July 21, 2021. - Israel OUT (Photo by Gideon MARKOWICZ / AFP) / Israel OUT (Photo by GIDEON MARKOWICZ/AFP via Getty Images)
GIDEON MARKOWICZ/AFP via Getty Images

Israel appears to be recovering from a large-scale cyberattack. According to Haaretz and Kan's Amichai Stein, attackers took down several Israeli government websites on Monday evening, including those for the ministries of health, interior, justice and welfare. The Prime Minister's Office website was also affected. All of the websites are back online, the country's National Cyber Directorate said in a statement.

The government hasn't officially identified a likely perpetrator, but it did say the sites were victims of a denial of service attack that flooded them with traffic. Haaretz sources claimed the cyberattack targeted sites with a gov.il domain, and suspected that either a state actor or a "large organization" was responsible. DW notes an Iran-linked hacker group supposedly took credit, and that this may have been retaliation for an alleged Israeli operation against an Iranian nuclear facility. Neither has been confirmed, however.

It's unclear whether or not this is the largest cyberattack against Israel to date, as a defense source told Haaretz. However, the NCF and defense officials were reportedly concerned enough to declare a state of emergency and review the possible damage, including anything that might compromise other key websites and critical infrastructure.

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In contrast to the assaults that hobbled Ukrainian government websites ahead of Russia's invasion, the denial of service attacks here are unlikely to have done much damage. They made it difficult to reach the websites, but there's no evidence the culprits defaced sites or compromised data. Still, the cyberattack may exacerbate an already tense situation — it comes just a day after Iran fired missiles at the Iraqi city of Erbil in an apparent warning to the US and its allies. Israel was already on guard, and the country is known to respond to cyberattacks with physical force.

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