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May 20, 2020 12:18 pm

Cyber-Attack on Iran Port Showed Only Fraction of Israel’s Capabilities, Expert Says

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port. Photo: Emad Yeganehdoost via Wikimedia Commons.

An Israeli cyber-defense expert said on Wednesday that the cyber-attack on an Iranian port earlier this month, widely attributed to Israel, “served as a warning” and represented only a fraction of what the Jewish state could bring to bear.

The cyber-attack on Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port resulted in major disruptions in the site’s infrastructure and computer systems, rendering it unable to provide basic services for a time.

The attack was seen as a possible retaliation for a cyber-attack on Israel’s water infrastructure in April that was attributed to Iran.

In an interview with Israeli news site N12, Lotem Finkelstein, the Threat Intelligence Group manager at Check Point Software Technologies and an expert on cyber-defense, called the attack a warning shot, saying Israel “didn’t use the strongest tools.”

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He noted that Iran was at the top of Israel’s security priorities and Israel possessed substantial information on Iran’s cyber-security weaknesses.

Referring to a massive cyber-attack on Iran’s nuclear program a decade ago, also generally believed to be an Israeli operation, Finkelstein said, “Israel can take the capabilities attributed to it from the attack on the Iranian [nuclear] reactor in the past and now in the port and darken Iranian cities.”

He added, however, that the attack on the port was a signal more than an attempt at causing major damage.

“A message was sent here that there is someone else in their system who can make the decisions,” he said. “If the attack on the nuclear reactor a decade ago was an atomic bomb in the cyber world, this was a much smaller weapon and it served as a warning.”

“This is definitely not the first time this has been done,” he added, “but it is the first time an attack on a civilian target has been used to signal the Iranians.”

However, Finkelstein said, Israel should not underestimate Iran’s ability to retaliate.

“The Iranians have a wide range of capabilities,” he said, “Public bodies and private companies in this country should know that they can be the target of an attack.”

“Israel has excellent defense capabilities,” he added, “but this is something that must be understood.”

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