Speaking to attendees of the Cybertech Global Tel Aviv 2020 conference on January 29, Steinitz revealed that “a very serious” cyberattack was thwarted “a few months ago,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
“It was detected and neutralized, but it was a very serious, sophisticated attempt to try to control and paralyze one of our power stations,” he said, noting that while countries such as Iran have the ability to wreak havoc on Israel and damage infrastructure such as transportation and health care systems, it’s the energy sector that is most vital.
“If someone manages to paralyze the nation’s energy sector and water supply chain, it would be [a] total disaster,” Steinitz stressed, as reported by the Times of Israel. “You can destroy the entire country.”
The minister revealed that in order to combat the “thousands and millions of attacks” that are conducted against Israel and its energy facilities, the country has created a cyber defense center near the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. The center is designed to work in tandem with the CERT to monitor and defend both government and privately-owned energy infrastructure.
“It’s a miracle that so far Israel and the world haven’t witnessed enormous disasters or calamities following cyberterrorism or cyberattacks,” Steinitz said, confessing that he imagines several countries around the world will fall victim to sophisticated cyber offensives in the future, “and therefore we have to do our best to develop means to prevent it as much as possible.”
While the energy minister did not reveal which facility was targeted in the reported attack, Yossi Shneck, the head of cyber entrepreneurship and business development for the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), confirmed to the Times of Israel that the IEC - the nation’s primary producer of electricity - was not the owner of the facility in question.
However, Yiftah Ron-Tal, the company’s chairman, highlighted that the “IEC is probably one of the most cyberattacked organizations in the world, but also one of the most protected,” according to the Jerusalem Post. He claimed that the company endured an average of 11,000 “cyber-suspected events” per second in 2019.