Cyber security (illustrative)
Cyber security (illustrative)Reuters

In an effort to raise awareness of the threat of cyberattacks among Jewish community organizations and synagogues, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) conducted an online seminar which provided information on the current threat landscape and tips on how to protect computer servers against malicious attacks.

In the seminar, organized by the National Association for Temple Administration and the North American Association of Synagogue Executives and promoted as well by the Orthodox Union and Chabad, an ADL expert on cyberhate response joined a representative the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Watch Unit to offer guidance to more than 80 Jewish communal representatives from across the country.

“Like the public and retail sectors, synagogues and community institutions need to be on guard 24/7 for hackers and attempted acts of cyber intrusion,” said Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director.  “We’ve already seen some isolated incidents where synagogues have fallen prey to hacker attacks. Unfortunately, given the world we live in, Jewish institutions and organizations remain a prime target of anti-Semites and cyber-terrorists and must always be on guard.”

“The goal for synagogues, schools and community institutions should be to safeguard their databases, websites, e-mails and other digital information against the ‘hacker-frenzy’ environment that now exists around the world,” said Jonathan Vick, ADL Assistant Director for Cyberhate Response and one of the facilitators of the Dec. 17 webinar. “If Sony, Target and Home Depot can fall victim to hackers, so too can Jewish organizations. Simple steps can help prevent loss of data and other risks associated with doing business in the online environment.”

Cyber warfare: redefining war?

This was the second cyber security seminar organized by ADL in recent months. In August, the League held a program for local Jewish communal institutions in Los Angeles, California called “The Cyber Threat Landscape,” which provided information and tips on various cyber security issues and threats.

The initiative follows an outage in North Korea Monday night, and four days after the FBI said that Pyongyang was behind a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, which exposed Hollywood secrets, destroyed data and caused the studio to cancel the release of “The Interview,” a comedy about a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In Israel, defense officials have refocused efforts on cyber warfare.

The IDF revealed several months ago that its cyber defense division was drafted in to mount a defense against a systemic hacker attack - sponsored by the Iranian government - during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza this summer. 

The Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) also recently revealed it had set up an elite cyber-defense unit to defend against an organized attack on Israeli cyberspace.

Both revelations led to the Israeli government's establishment of an official National Authority for Cyber Defense in September.