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Homeland Security

IDF's Secret Cyber Unit Claims It Helped Thwart Attack on US Power Plants

Sputnik News

Ilya Tsukanov

Israel and regional adversary Iran have engaged in a years-long cyberwarfare campaign, targeting both physical and virtual infrastructure. Last year, the Israel Defense Force Joint Cyber Defense Division and the Pentagon's Cyber Command held joint drills involving training "for a variety of cyber defense challenges in the US."

Unit 8200, a secretive IDF intelligence formation responsible for collecting signal intelligence, has claimed to have helped thwart an attempted attack on the US power network.

In a rare briefing in Tel Aviv University on Wednesday, Unit 8200 deputy director, known only as 'Colonel U', said that a mysterious "adversary" that had "attacked Israel" using cyber means, and that in the process of stopping the attack, "we also found that they were attempting to target US power plants as well."

"This was the first indication of this attack. It enabled preventing this threat, through tight collaboration with our fantastic American partners," Colonel U said.

The officer did not specify when the reported attack took place, who was responsible, or any other information about the purported incident. He recalled however than another "adversary," Iran, had similarly "attack water facilities in Israel," and that that threat had also been "mitigated" before it could cause any damage. Israeli and US media had reported on the attempted attack on the Jewish State's water utilities in May 2020.

"Like it or not, we work in quite a tough neighborhood, this leads to ongoing high friction in a dynamic and intense environment. We have new challenges each day. When we succeed we save lives. When we fail this becomes a major problem for our nation," Colonel U said.

Unit 8200 members received state awards for their reported involvement in a 2020 attack on Iranian port infrastructure, and former employees of the force were implicated in last year's Pegasus spy scandal -involving the installation of military-grade zero-click spyware on the phones of tens of thousands of VIPs, including senior government officials, business executives, activists and journalists.

Israel and Iran have waged a long-running covert cyberwar going back at least to the 2010 Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear installations, including the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and its nuclear centrifuges. The two countries have subsequently accused one another of targeting a range of virtual and physical infrastructure, from government websites and servers to real-world facilities like gas stations, ports, utilities, and power plants.

Last week, Israel accused Iranian hackers of triggering false siren alerts in Eilat and Jerusalem by accessing and activating the IDF Home Front Command's alert system.

In March, Israeli media reported that the country experienced its "largest-ever cyberattack" involving the targeting of Israeli government websites shortly after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps cyber command announced that it had stopped a cyber sabotage attempt against the Fordow nuclear enrichment facility.

Last October, Israeli officials reported that a suspected Iranian hacking group known as 'Moses Staff' had breached 165 Israeli servers and hundreds of websites, amassing 11 terabytes of sensitive data, including the personal information of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and military officials, IDF operational planning maps, and correspondence. The same month, Tehran accused the "Zionist regime" and its allies of a massive hack attack which temporarily crippled Iran's entire gas station network.

© Sputnik

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