Israeli cyber leadership issues annual warning ahead of Iran’s ‘Jerusalem Day’


Israel’s National Cybersecurity Directorate issued its annual warning against possible cyberattacks on Sunday to mark Iran’s Quds Day and the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Iran launched Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, in 1979, the year of the Islamic Revolution. It commemorates the day with anti-Israel speeches, events and threats to “liberate” Jerusalem from Israeli control.

Possible breaches of Israeli websites are expected on or around April 29 this year and are being coordinated by anti-Israel hackers around the world under the banner “#OPJerusalem.”

In previous years, the day was marked by breaches of websites that carried anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian messages, cyberattacks on companies that host and manage large numbers of websites to maximize impact breach, as well as attempts to hack organizations. systems and information leaks, management said on Sunday.

In 2020, various relevant websites released a video simulating bombed Israeli cities and messages threatening the destruction of the Jewish state.

This year’s operations by OPJerusalem come amid high tensions in the Israeli capital surrounding the Temple Mount compound, where police have repeatedly clashed with Palestinian rioters in recent weeks.

The Temple Mount and Jerusalem were a flashpoint last month, as Passover coincided with Ramadan. The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism as the site of the biblical temples. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, which stands atop the mountain, is the third holiest shrine in Islam. Jews are allowed to visit the compound, but not to pray or perform religious rituals, as part of the sensitive status quo.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Management said there has been a significant increase in attempted cyberattacks over the past month, including DDos attacks or denial of service attacks where hackers overload a website with unwanted traffic to disrupt its availability by line, and defacement, where attackers change the visual appearance of a website.

Last week, a group of pro-Iranian hackers claimed responsibility for a DDos cyberattack that temporarily blocked the Israel Airports Authority website. The violation coincided with the second anniversary of the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated terrorist organization.

The DDoS attack also targeted dozens of other Israeli sites.

In recent years, numerous alleged Iranian cyberattacks against Israel have been reported, including one targeting its water infrastructure in 2020.

Einat Meyron, cybersecurity consultant and cyber resilience expert, said that for OpIsrael, attackers “usually try to deface the websites they access, deleting the homepage and replacing it with pro- Palestinians”.

“The goal is to sow panic and generate alarm. But we know from years past that [these types of attacks] are not very serious,” Meyron told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

“There are situations where degradation is used as a smokescreen to hide a more serious attack, so it’s good to be aware of this possibility,” she warned.

Dozens of Israeli websites fall victim to a cyberattack, May 21, 2020 (Screenshot/Ynet)

She said most websites and organizations can protect themselves using basic methods such as keeping all software updated, applying patches (software and operating system updates that patch security vulnerabilities) if necessary, and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), a method that adds an extra layer of protection to keep online accounts secure beyond a username. user and a password.

“Another thing website owners can do is ask their hosting companies to change their passwords and how often they change them to stay ahead of breaches,” Meyron said, adding that she recommends changing passwords every three months or so.

“These are all very simple, very basic things people can do to secure their sites,” she said. “Of course, systems like hospitals will likely have additional layers of protection than, say, a site that sells balloons for Yom Ha’atzmaut [Independence Day]but these are a few simple precautions.

In its annual announcement on Sunday, the cyber leadership said it has reached out to organizations with a series of recommendations to bolster their system security and “has actively approached web hosting companies” to bolster their defenses as well.

Iranians set fire to Israeli flags while stepping on an American flag during a rally marking al-Quds Day in Azadi (Freedom) Square in the capital Tehran on 7 May 2021 (AFP)

Management launched a program last year to strengthen the security of web hosting companies by establishing a uniform standard of protection.

Furthermore, the management warned the general public against opening hyperlinks or downloading files received by e-mail from unknown, unofficial or dubious sources. He also reminded the public not to give out passwords or personal data or respond to requests for such information. Those who come across a corrupted website should not click on any of its links, but rather close their web browser.

Passwords should be strong, he said, and recommended implementing two-step verification for access to email, social media and messaging apps.

In general, the management advises to only download applications from recognized online stores and not to click on links from websites that offer offers that seem too tempting.

Cyberattacks and suspected breaches can be reported directly to management by dialing 119.

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