Cyberattack in Israel “shuts down” road for hours

A major road artery in Israel was paralyzed for hours by a cyberattack this September, according to a security expert speaking to Associated Press.

Attackers used a Trojan program to target a security camera system in the Carmel Tunnels toll road in Haifa, shutting down the road for hours, and causing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in damage, according to Associated Press.

A source, speaking anonymously to Associated Press, said that Israeli experts thought that the attack was the work of a rogue group, rather than a government, due to the level of expertise involved.

The Washington Post quoted Israel’s Lt General Benny Gantz, who warned earlier this year, “a cyberattack on websites which provide daily services to the citizens of Israel. Traffic lights could stop working, the banks could be shut down.”

Vulnerabilities in systems such as security cameras have become a hot topic this year, with researchers demonstrating vulnerabilities in “connected” systems as diverse as locks and toilets.

Craig Heffner, formerly of the National Security Administration, showed off a hack against security cameras at this year’s Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, saying he had  found “zero-day vulnerabilities” which would allow attackers to control cameras made by D-Link, Trendnet, Cisco, IQInvision, Alinking and 3SVision.

“It’s a significant threat,” Heffner said.  ”Somebody could potentially access a camera and view it. Or they could also use it as a pivot point, an initial foothold, to get into the network and start attacking internal systems.”

ESET researcher Stephen Cobb discusses how such “connected appliances” can affect the home user – and offers tips on staying safe in a detailed blog post here.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, utilities and infrastructure are frequent targets of cyberattacks in Israel. The Israel Electric Corporation’s servers register 6,000 unique electronic attacks every second. At a conference earlier this year, Haaretz reported Israeli intelligence experts discussing the scale of such attacks.

“What might seem like fiction, already exists, said Yair Cohen, a former commander of Unit 8200, the Central Military Intelligence and Cyber Unit of the Israeli army. “We are living in a world where 500 million cyber-attacks occur per second.”

“Most of these systems are automated, especially as far as security is concerned. They’re automated and they’re remotely controlled, either over the Internet or otherwise, so they’re vulnerable to cyberattack.”

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel already faced constant attacks against its water system, electric grid, trains and banks. Utilities such as electrical companies are instituting training programs to deal with such threats, according to Business Insider.  

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

  • Carl S

    I’m a little confused as to exactly how someone taking over a security camera shut down a road. Does Israel close a road if they can’t see it on their CCTV? I mean, presumably toll roads existed before CCTV, so why does that cause them to stop working. Did the attack allow them further access which in turn stopped the toll collection devices or something? This story is very confusing.

    • http://dharley.wordpress.com/ David Harley

      According to AP, in one of the stories linked to above – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=241194874 – “The attack caused an immediate 20-minute lockdown of the roadway. The next day, the expert said, it shut down the roadway again during morning rush hour. It remained shut for eight hours, causing massive congestion.” I know that doesn’t really answer your question, but the Israeli government isn’t taking our calls. ;)

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