Iran was behind a cyberattack on a major research university in Israel last month, the Israel National Cyber Directorate announced on Tuesday.

An investigation of the hacking attack on the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa revealed that a group known as MuddyWater was responsible. The group is affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

During the attack on Feb. 11, the hackers used malware designed to encrypt operating systems. In response, the Technion unplugged the computer system and asked that students log off and limit their email usage. Some scheduled exams were postponed until the start of the spring semester.

A group calling itself DarkBit sent an email to the Technion during the attack demanding 80 bitcoins in ransom for the information that it claimed to have obtained. That is an amount in digital currency worth $1.79 million.

“The Technion was hacked. The hackers punished us for the ‘apartheid’ regime. All systems are not accessible and we have lost our data. Therefore, we have to temporarily stop our human resources procedures. Our most sincere apologies to all colleagues, partners and those who trust us,” the Technion posted to its LinkedIn account.

The Israel National Cyber Directorate and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) are tasked under the law with handling cyberattacks. Both bodies assist critical companies such as banks and mobile phone carriers in determining how to protect themselves from cyberattacks.

A successful breach could provide hackers access to the devices of thousands of Israelis and collect sensitive data including medical information, compromise bank accounts and disrupt transit and traffic lights.

The Cyber Directorate said that 53 cyberattacks were detected at Israeli academic institutions in 2022, with most attempts blocked.


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