HADERA, Israel – When Israel’s military chief delivered a high-profile speech this month outlining the greatest threats his country might face in the future, he listed computer sabotage as a top concern, warning a sophisticated cyberattack could one day bring the nation to a standstill.
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was not speaking empty words. Exactly one month before his address, a major artery in Israel’s national road network in the northern city of Haifa was shut down because of a cyber-attack, cybersecurity experts tell the Associated Press, knocking key operations out of commission two days in a row and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
One expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a Trojan horse attack targeted the security camera system in the Carmel Tunnels toll road Sept. 8. A Trojan horse is a malicious computer program that users unknowingly install that can give hackers complete control over their systems.
The attack caused an immediate 20-minute lockdown of the roadway. The next day, the expert said, it shut down the roadway again during morning rush hour. It remained shut for eight hours, causing massive congestion.
The expert said investigators believe the attack was the work of unknown, sophisticated hackers, similar to the Anonymous hacking group that led attacks on Israeli websites in April. He said investigators determined it was not sophisticated enough to be the work of an enemy government like Iran.
While Israel is a frequent target of hackers, the tunnel is the most high-profile landmark known to have been attacked. It is a major thoroughfare for Israel’s third-largest city, and the city is looking to turn the tunnel into a public shelter in case of emergency, highlighting its importance.
Under constant threat, Israel has emerged as a world leader in cyber-security, with murky military units developing much of the technology. Last year, the military formed its first cyberdefense unit.
Israeli cybersecurity experts say Iran and other hostile entities have successfully hacked into Israeli servers this year, and that Israel has quietly permitted those attacks to occur in order to track the hackers and feed them false intelligence.
Israel is also widely believed to have launched its own sophisticated computer attacks on its enemies, including the Stuxnet worm that caused significant damage to Iran’s nuclear program.