With ‘Robocat’ attacked, Israel’s cyber warriors prepare for new challenges

When Syria set off a “Robocat” — a malicious drone controlled remotely from a computer — on Sunday, Israel was already on edge. On Monday, minutes after the Syria attack was reported, Israeli commando units began sweeping the country for sophisticated “worm” designed to attack an array of infrastructure. And an hour after the malware attack against civilian targets had been detected, Israeli defenses, already better than average at detecting and neutralizing malware, had easily disposed of the incoming attack.

“It’s not the first time,” Zeev Farkash, chief of Israel’s Cyber Intelligence Unit, which has been assigned this high-tech challenge, said of the attacks against civilians. “It’s something we see regularly.” Like the Syria attack, Sunday’s effort was being directed by an Iranian operative, Farkash said, indicating that the sophisticated protocols employed by most cyber attacks against Iran must also be maintained to deter attacks from the country’s weaker enemies.

Nearly two decades after Israeli hackers thwarted attacks on its radio-control installations and electricity grid and repeatedly repelled armies of denial-of-service attacks, the country is now increasingly focused on the technical method of attacking the attackers as well as the organizations behind them.

[David Malpass is a contributor to the Ticker and a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.]

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