On April 2, the Israeli government announced its intention to significantly enhance the cybersecurity of Israeli communications networks in an attempt to construct an “Iron Dome” of cyber defense. At a press conference, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel stated, “We are trying to put the right standard on communications companies in order to protect Israel and create a kind of ‘Iron Dome’ from cyber security attacks. We are suffering from thousands of cyber attacks every year.” Recent cyberattacks against Israel have been conducted through communication networks, which enable the hacker to share information or shut down essential services. Illustrating the danger of unsecured communications networks, Hendel stressed, “There isn’t a vital infrastructure that’s not connected to a server that’s connected to the field of communications somehow.”
In March, Israel suffered a significant cyber attack that took down government websites for approximately one hour. Hackers conducting the denial of service (DDoS) attack overloaded website servers with data in an effort to paralyze Israel’s cybersphere. After the attack, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, citing an anonymous source in Israel’s defense establishment, declared the attack the largest cyber attack launched against Israel. Weeks before the attack, a delegation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrived in Israel to sign commitments for expanding a system of cyber security cooperation.
Israel and Iran have been locked in a shadow war of cyber attacks against infrastructure and websites. The Stuxnet virus that disabled Iran’s nuclear program in 2010 brought Israel’s expansive cyber warfare capabilities into the fore. Although cyber attacks begin in the technological sphere, they can be targeted towards physical infrastructure such as power plants, water treatment facilities, or industrial factories. To date, Iran has not successfully penetrated Israel’s cyber security defenses in an attack on industrial equipment. However, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in January 2020 that Israeli security officials constantly detect and disrupt Iranian cybersecurity attacks, according to the Washington Post. Cyber security firm Check Point reported that Israeli companies experienced nearly 1,500 attacks per week during the first three months of 2022.
Israeli concerns of cyber security come amid a rise in cyber attacks across the Middle East. According to the National News, the region saw 161 million malware attacks in the first half of 2021. These attacks were occasionally politically motivated. After the UAE signed the Abraham Accords establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, they experienced a wave of increased cyber attacks according to UAE cyber security chief Mohamed Al Kuwaiti. Israel intends to create updated cyber security standards for communications networks. Major communications companies will be required to implement undisclosed procedures for identifying and preventing cyber threats. Additionally, they will be required to purchase advanced technologies for responding to future cyber attacks. The Israeli government states that these procedures will not encroach on the private communications of the Israeli public.