It's easy to think the effects of cyber-warfare are hidden behind the walls of large corporate or governmental institutions, but a massive traffic jam in Israel last month demonstrated its real-world implications. According to a news report, the traffic snarl in that country's northern coastal city of Haifa was the result of a cyberattack.
The Associated Press, citing an anonymous Israeli security expert, said a Trojan horse attack was targeted at security cameras on the Carmel Tunnels near the city in early September, and resulted in the tunnel being closed for about a half-hour one day and for eight hours the next. In addition to the inconvenience for travelers, the episode reportedly resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. The Carmel Tunnels are a major part of Haifa's road network, and this attempt to shut them down is the highest profile cyberattack on Israel yet.
Previously, Israeli officials had publicly attributed the event to computer problems. The anonymous expert cited in the AP report said the security camera malfunction was caused by a Trojan horse attack, instigated by anonymous, sophisticated hackers. However, Israeli officials have indicated they do not believe it was the work of a government such as Iran.
Israel is constantly defending itself against cyberattacks, according to government officials, who said there are many as a thousand per minute. That figure is closer to 6,000 unique attacks per second on the servers of the Israel Electric Corp.
As a result, Israel has developed new cyber-security technology, and the military's first cyber-defense unit began operating last year. Israel is suspected of having been a key participant in the Stuxnet computer worm that accomplished significant physical damage to Iranian nuclear efforts.
Late last week, the French newspaper Le Monde reported that French intelligence suspects the U.S. cyberattack on the Elysee Palace's communications system during the French presidential elections was conducted with the assistance of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, although Israel has denied involvement.
Earlier this month, nearly 150 Israeli defense department officials were the target of an e-mail containing a Trojan horse that was intended to retrieve and send sensitive information. Israeli defense officials have said that the e-mail came from China, possibly from the military.
Recently, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the highest military official in Israel, gave a speech in which he listed cyber-warfare as among the country's top threats. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hezbollah and Hamas, among others, have targeted his country's water system, electrical grid and banks.
A manager at security firm RSA, Oren David, told the AP that the Carmel Tunnels attack "is the hallmark of a new era," adding that such systems are automated, remotely controlled and therefore vulnerable to attacks.