There are tens of thousands of attempted virus attacks on Israeli systems each week – but Israel is “well-equipped” to fend off an onslaught of computer viruses, such as the one that has plagued Iran in recent months, experts say.
Iran has been struggling to control a virulently destructive, surprisingly agile computer virus known as Stuxnet, which has invaded – and hijacked - over 30,000 computers in Iran. Unlike standard viruses, Stuxnet is especially destructive, as it attempts to take control of a computer's programmable logic controller (PLC), which runs supervisory control and data acquisition software (SCADA) of machinery and industrial systems, like the ones that control manufacturing, energy production, and other critical infrastructure.
Stuxnet is seen as especially sophisticated, as well, because the PLCs it attacks – it seems to favor systems made by Germany's Siemens, which, by coincidence, are heavily used in Iran – are based on obtuse programming language, not on Windows or Linux, like most viruses. And, according to security experts, Stuxnet has the ability to hide its tracks – erasing traces of its activity recorded in computer logging systems – making detection all the more difficult.
With Iran seemingly the main target of the attack, and with experts like those from European security firm Kapersky claiming that, because of its severity and precision, “the attack could only have been the work of a group with nation-state support,” the world's eyes have turned to Israel, which certainly has a motive to attack Iranian information systems – especially the ones that control Iran's nuclear program.
Indeed, some reports claim that the virus has significantly impacted on work at the Natanz and Bushehr nuclear sites. The report that one of the files found in the virus was named “Myrtus” - possibly referring to Queen Esther, who led the Jewish revenge on Persia in the Purim story – seemed to be enough proof to pin the Stuxnet attack on Israel, as reported recently on INN.
Israel National News spoke with several Israeli security experts, and each refused to comment – on the record or off – on whether or not Israel was involved in the attack. However, several were willing to say that it was unlikely that Israel would face a similar situation. “Security here is on a very high level,” Tal Hanan, CEO of Israeli security firm Demoman said. “The country has poured much money and effort into avoiding these kinds of attacks, and Israel's cyber-defenses are among the best in the world. We've become very good at cyber-defense – and offense,” Hanan added.
Many of Israel's cyber-defense capabilities were developed by the IDF, of course – but Israel's hi-tech industry has contributed as well. In a recent interview, Michal Blumenstyk, head of the Israel office of worldwide security giant RSA, said that not only governments, but also private individuals were under constant attack by hackers. The local office, formerly an independent company called Cyota that was bought out by RSA, specialized in cyber-security for banks and online financial institutions – developing rock-solid security that hackers find it almost impossible to break.
Those same tactics are being used by hackers to invade computer systems run by governments and armies – and Israel, of course, is a prime target. “We have no choice,”says Blumenstyk. “We have to be the best at this.”