Israel’s Cyber Security War

Israel’s Hillel Yaffe Medical Centre, located in Hadera, was hit by a major cyber-attack on Wednesday 13th October, disrupting most of its systems.

It was a ransomware attack that began in the afternoon and continued into the evening, causing electric doors and the patient registry system to malfunction.

That might not seem too troubling at first glance, but Gil Messing, head of global corporate communications for a leading cyber security organisation, explained that it can be a matter of life or death in hospitals. Taking the example of a life-support machine connected to a hospital’s network, she noted that a cyber-attack could result in the machine stopping, with dire consequences for the patient.

The Hillel Yaffe Medical Centre The Hillel Yaffe Medical Centre

And the Hillel Yaffe Medical Centre is by no means the only Israeli hospital experiencing this type of attack. On Sunday morning, Israel’s Health Ministry and the National Cyber System issued a joint statement about the increase in cyber-attacks against hospitals over the weekend.

They claimed that a combination of timely preparation, rapid responses by the Health Ministry’s Cyber Centre and staff in every medical facility had prevented any damage being caused by the attempted attacks. The Health Ministry said:

“Together with the National Cyber System, we are carrying out many activities
with entities in the health sector to further strengthen the level of protection
while identifying new vulnerabilities that may invite attacks,
and calling on threatened organizations to block them.”

In the latest statement from Israel’s Health Ministry, its cyber security chief said the source of last week’s ransomware attack on Hillel Yaffe hospital was:

“Probably a Chinese hacker group that broke away from another group and
started working in August. The motive for the attack was purely financial.”

“We are investigating the incident and continue to invest funds
to prevent such cases from recurring.”

These attacks come within the context of a global increase highlighted by a recent report from VirusTotal. The organisation analysed more than 80 million ransomware samples from 140 countries that were uploaded to a malware scanning service since January 2020.

Among the countries affected, Israel is the most significant ‘outlier’ with an increase close to 600 percent in the number of ransomware samples submitted to VirusTotal in the last 18 months.

And the situation takes on a more sinister character in light of the warning issued just last Friday by Google. They noted a surge in state-backed hacking activity in a report focused on the ‘notable campaigns’ of a group linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

That report came less than a week after Microsoft had also issued a warning about Iranian hackers, saying that Iran had increased its hacks on Israel fourfold in the past year.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Israelis are world leaders in cyber security.