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May 28, 2020 1:26 pm

‘Cyber Winter Is Coming,’ Top Israeli Official Warns After Iran Attack on Water System

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Kacper Pempel / Illustration.

The head of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate said Thursday that following a recent Iranian cyber-attack on the Jewish state’s water system, it was clear that “the cyber winter is coming and coming faster than even I suspected.”

Israel’s Channel 13 reported that Director-General Yigal Unna, speaking to a virtual conference held by the Israeli platform Cybertech, said, “We will remember this last month, May 2020, as a changing point in the history of modern cyber-warfare.”

Referring to the Iranian cyber-attack last month, which was contained by Israeli counter-measures, Unna said, “If it had been successful, and fortunately we managed to foil it and prevent it, but if the bad guys had succeeded in their plot, we would be now facing, in the middle of the corona crisis, very big damage to the civilian population,” including interruption in the water supply and chemical contamination.

He noted that the attack was also unique in that it was not criminal, but rather a military-style assault on essential civilian infrastructure.

Israel, he said, believed that this represented a paradigm shift for which it must prepare.

“We are now waiting for the next phase to come,” Unna said, “and it will come eventually. … I’m afraid that [the attack is] only the first major sign of a new era of attacks aiming at humanitarian targets.”

In addition, the Iranian attack indicated a major escalation in cyber-warfare, he stated.

“If we thought there are some rules of engagement or some lines that shouldn’t be or never be crossed, well all the lines are crossed and going to cross even harder in the coming future,” he said.

“The cyber winter is coming and coming faster than even I suspected,” Unna added, saying attacks will now become “more sophisticated and deadlier.”

Countries around the world, he implored, must now make preparations accordingly.

“The risk management at a national level should be in a new phase,” he said.

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