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Did Iran Cyber-attack Israel Water Infrastructure?

WASHINGTON DC, United States

Article updated 29 May.

An attempted cyber attack on water command and control systems in Israel in April has been blamed on Iran. The Iran link was first reported by Fox News in the US, quoting unnamed United States government Department of Energy sources. US officials have declined to comment further.

Israel’s head of national cyber security Yigal Unna confirmed 28 May that the country had thwarted a major cyber attack in April against its water systems, calling it a “synchronized and organized attack” aimed at disrupting key national infrastructure.

Unna did not mention Iran directly, nor did he comment on the alleged Israeli retaliation two weeks later said to have shut down a key Iranian port, but he said recent developments have ushered in a new era of covert warfare, ominously warning that “cyber winter is coming". (AP)

There was no harm or interruption to water supply, as the 24-25 April attack was detected by Israel authorities early, and thwarted. It is reported that hackers used computer servers in the United States and Europe and sought to damage computer systems that control water flow and wastewater treatment facilities in Israel. 

At the time, the Israel Water Authority and Israel National Cyber Directorate confirmed an “attempted cyber breach on water command and control systems.”

Israeli officials and security analysts are now reported to view the action to be an escalation in hostilities between Iran and Israel  

Authorities in Israel have neither confirmed nor denied the report of the Iran link, while Iranian officials have denied any involvement in the attack. As reported in The Washington Post: “The Iranian government does not engage in cyberwarfare,” said Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s Mission to the United Nations in New York.

Israel Media Reports:

From "The Times of Israel", (9 May):

“A meeting this week of the high-level security cabinet, the first to be held in months, dealt in part with a recent Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s water infrastructure, Israeli television reported Saturday.

Quoting unnamed senior officials, Channel 13 news said the attack in late April is viewed as a significant escalation by Iran and a crossing of a red line because it targeted civil infrastructure.

“This is an attack that goes against all the codes of war. Even from the Iranians we didn’t expect something like this,” an official was quoted saying.

Israel was now weighing how and if to respond, the network said.

According to the report, ministers who took part in Thursday’s security cabinet meeting had to sign confidentiality forms”.