newsIsrael at War

J’lem fears Moscow may transfer advanced cyber capabilities to Iran

Since Oct. 7, there has been a several-hundred-percent increase in significant cyberattacks on Israel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi meet in New York, Apr 17, 2024. Credit: photosince/Shutterstock.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi meet in New York, Apr 17, 2024. Credit: photosince/Shutterstock.

The deepening relationship between Iran and Russia is one of the trends in our region that has greatly alarmed the Israeli security establishment in recent times.

So far, reports have mainly focused on the Islamic Republic’s extensive assistance to Moscow—primarily in the form of selling drones that the Russians have used in their war against Ukraine.

However, the security, economic, and strategic ties between the two countries have tightened significantly, and Russia’s commitment to Iranian interests in the Middle East appears to be growing stronger, undoubtedly having bad implications for Israel.

Beyond Iran’s desire to receive aircraft, helicopters, radar systems and other weaponry from Russia in return, one of the issues troubling the Israeli security establishment is the two nation’s convergence in the cyber domain, particularly the transfer of state-sponsored, advanced cyber capabilities from Russia to Iran. These are sophisticated tools developed by governments using taxpayer funds, unlike the capabilities of individual hackers.

While Iran is known to possess decent cyberinfrastructure, Russia is a cyber superpower and one of the few countries in the world with nation-state-level cyber capabilities. Israel is also considered a nation with such capabilities.

According to a source familiar with the details, “Superpowers like Russia have capabilities that terrorist groups or other countries do not have. Russia has different tools that can inflict significant damage on its adversaries.”

The source added, “The cyber apparatus is focused on defense, and the defense is constantly working. We are also preparing for significant attacks.”

Since the beginning of the current Hamas war on Oct. 7, there has been a several-hundred-percent increase in significant cyberattacks on Israel, effectively a 2.5- to 3-fold rise. The main targets of these attacks have been healthcare infrastructure, academia, service and integration entities, and other critical infrastructure. Israel is also bracing for attacks on the electricity grid, water systems and other vital infrastructure.

The concern is future-oriented

Since the beginning of the war, thousands of attacks have been carried out against targets in Israel, with around a thousand of them aimed at significant entities, posing a severe risk of damage. At this stage, the damage has been “contained,” and thanks to the defense apparatus, no significant harm has been caused.

According to a senior official familiar with the details, “The scale of the attacks is unprecedented; all Iranian groups are working hard. Iranians are collaborating closely with the Russians, transferring conventional arms and drones but likely also gaining access to sophisticated Russian cyber warfare capabilities.”

Another source noted that Israel’s healthcare system has been taking the threat particularly seriously. Providers have developed detailed risk scenarios and are bolstering cyber defenses while also ensuring they can quickly recover operations through backup systems and contingency plans.

It’s important to note, however, that the national cyber defense apparatus has not detected any changes in the technological level, and the preparation is primarily for the future.

“Most of the current attacks are carried out using technologies that do not require nation-state-level capabilities. At the moment, mainly known vulnerabilities in the security system are being exploited, which is why it is crucial to update security measures, however, some companies across various sectors have not updated their cybersecurity measures adequately. The concern is future-oriented.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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