Report: Israel Behind Cyberattack that Caused ‘Total Disarray’ at Iran Port

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Kevin Ku via Unsplash

TEL AVIV – Israel was behind a “highly accurate” cyberattack on an Iranian port facility that caused total chaos, the Washington Post reported Monday,  citing foreign and U.S. officials as saying the attack was in retaliation for the Islamic Republic’s attempted assault on Israel’s water infrastructure. 

The May 9 attack brought the “bustling Shahid Rajaee port terminal to an abrupt and inexplicable halt,” the report said:

Computers that regulate the flow of vessels, trucks and goods all crashed at once, ­creating massive backups on waterways and roads leading to the facility.

After waiting a day, Iranian officials acknowledged that an unknown foreign hacker had briefly knocked the port’s computers off­line. Now, more than a week later, a more complete explanation has come to light: The port was the victim of a substantial cyberattack that U.S. and foreign government officials say appears to have originated with Iran’s archenemy, Israel.

The attack, which snarled traffic around the port for days, was carried out by Israeli operatives, presumably in retaliation for an earlier attempt to penetrate computers that operate rural water distribution systems in Israel, according to intelligence and cybersecurity officials familiar with the matter.

Tehran later acknowledged the attack but according to the report, the damage was much more severe than it let on.

“There was total disarray,” a security official with a foreign government said, adding that the attack was “highly accurate.”

A U.S. official with access to classified files also said Israelis were believed to be responsible for the attack.

An unnamed Western official told Israel’s Channel 12 news Tuesday the attack was in retaliation for the failed cyber assault carried out against Israel’s national water caompany.

“Israel hopes that [the Iranians] stop there. They attacked water infrastructure components. They didn’t really cause damage, but they crossed a line and [Israel] needed to respond,” the official said.

Former head of Israel’s military intelligence Amos Yadlin echoed those remarks, saying the cyberattack on the Shahid Rajee port “appears to be an Israeli response to the earlier Iranian cyberattack on Israeli water and sewage infrastructure.

“Cyber is now being integrated to the ground, sea, and aerial dimensions of combat as a major domain of war-fighting,” he posted in a series of tweets.

“If this cyberattack was indeed Israel’s response to the Iranian attack on civilian infrastructure (water and sewage systems), Israel is sending an important message to Iran regarding the vulnerability of key elements of Iran’s economy to Israeli cyber capabilities.”

“An interesting question is: Does the Iranian leadership have control of the Iranian hackers? Other interesting subjects that these cyberattacks bring to the fore:

A) The attack on the Iranian port – appears to demonstrate superpower capabilities.
B) The significance of violation of sovereignty in the cyber domain.
C) Attribution of cyberattacks, plausible deniability of both the attacker and the target.
D) The meaning of deterrence in cyber.
E) The interaction between cyber and kinetic activities,” he concluded.

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