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Israel’s Coronavirus Vaccine Research Centers Reportedly Targeted in Cyber Attacks


JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli research institutes working on developing a coronavirus vaccine were targeted by widespread cyber attacks last week that shut down hundreds of websites in the country, Israeli media reported Monday.

The attacks on Thursday did not attempt to steal information but sought to disrupt vaccine development, Channel 12 reported without specifying how many institutes were targeted.

The attacks failed and no damage was reported.

Last week’s attacks also shut down hundreds of Israeli websites, including ones connected to political groups and large organizations. 

Their website homepages were replaced with a video of Israeli cities being bombed and a message threatening the destruction of Israel.

Experts said the attacks occurred through a single access point, therefore minimizing their scope and damage.

The Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD) said Thursday it was a “superficial defacing of websites of private bodies in Israel done via a single storage firm hosting those websites.”

INCD Director Yigal Unna said in April that Israeli research centers are vulnerable to a variety of cyberattacks and his organization is working hard to protect the country from hackers.

The attacks occurred just ahead of Al-Quds Day, an Iranian-sponsored event calling for the destruction of Israel and Zionism. There is no indication that Iran was responsible for the attacks, but Channel 12 said it may have involved Iranian hackers. 

Just days earlier, the Washington Post reported that Israel was behind a cyber attack on an Iranian port on May 9.

Officials said the May 9 attack was in retaliation for an Iranian attack against Israeli water and sewage facilities that took place in April. Iran denies its involvement.

Israel is not the only country reporting that its vaccine research institutes are being targeted by hackers.

The United States reported earlier this month that state-sponsored Chinese hackers are targeting US labs working on vaccines for COVID-19.

The United Kingdom reported that Russia also hacked some of its institutions working on a vaccine.

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