JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel was behind a recent cyber attack that brought an Iranian port facility to a screeching halt, crashing computers and stirring chaos for several days, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The report, citing US and foreign government officials, said Israel’s attack on Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port terminal on May 9 was probably in retaliation for an earlier attempt by Iran to target Israel’s water infrastructure.
Initially, Iranian officials denied reports of an Israeli cyber attack. However, on May 11, Mohammad Rastad, Managing Director of the Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO), announced that an attack had indeed damaged the Shahid Rajaee port.
“A recent cyber attack failed to penetrate the PMO’s systems and was only able to infiltrate and damage a number of private operating systems at the ports,” Mohammad Rastad, managing director of the Ports and Maritime Organization, said in a statement reported by Iran’s ILNA news agency.
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One security official told The Post that the Israeli attack against Iran was “highly accurate” and more disruptive than what Iranian officials reported.
“There was total disarray,” said the anonymous official.
There was no comment from the Israeli embassy in Washington or the Israel Defense Forces.
“If Israel is the one responding to an Iranian attack aimed at civilian infrastructure (water and sewage), Israel makes it clear that civilian systems should be left out of combat. This is a significant message about Iran's economic system's vulnerability to Israeli cyber capabilities,” said Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF intelligence and executive director of the INSS.
Israel’s security cabinet met earlier this month to discuss an Iranian cyber-attack against Israeli water and sewage facilities that took place in April. Iran denies its involvement.
Israeli officials claim the attack caused minor damage, but it came as a surprise.
"This was a very unordinary cyberattack against civilian water facilities which is against every ethic and every code even in times of war," a senior Israeli official told Channel 13. "We didn't expect this even from the Iranians. It is just not done."
Fox News reported that the Iranian hackers used American and European servers to carry out the breach.
A US Department of Energy official told the network an investigation is ongoing.
Iran and Israel have accused each other of committing similar attacks in the past. Israel is maintaining a high-pressure campaign against Iran in the region.
The nation is reportedly responsible for hitting several Iranian targets in Syria in the last few weeks.
“Iran has, in fact, started a process of withdrawing from Syria, but we’ve got to finish the job,” outgoing Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday. “We have to increase the diplomatic, economic, military, and technological pressure, as well as operate in other realms.”