IDF cyber warriors thwart major aviation terror attack

Source: IDF cyber warriors thwart major aviation terror attack – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

Spread across the country, the online soldiers of Unit 8200 are on the front line of Israel’s cyber wars 24/7, 365 days a year to identify possible threats and effectively neutralize them.

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 FEBRUARY 21, 2018 16:59

female soldier

 Female IDF soldier in the J6/C4I Cyber Defense Directorate.. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

Soldiers in the IDF’s Unit 8200 thwarted a major Islamic State terror attack this past summer which aimed to bring down a civilian airliner headed from the Australian city of Sydney to Abu Dhabi, the army has revealed.

In cooperation with Israel’s intelligence community, soldiers provided exclusive intelligence that they had gathered on an attack that was being planned. This information led to the arrest of the suspects, even as they were in a very advanced stage in executing their terror plot, the army said.

“The thwarting of the attack led to the saving of the lives of dozens of innocent people and demonstrated that Unit 8200 is a player in the intelligence war against the Islamic State,” the army stated.

With operations similar to those of the NSA in the United States, the soldiers of one of the IDF’s most coveted units, Unit 8200, intercept and collect digital communication and intelligence on Israel’s enemies.

Spread across the country, these online soldiers of Unit 8200 are on the front line of Israel’s cyber wars 24/7, 365 days a year to identify possible threats and effectively neutralize them.

“About half of Unit 8200 is engaged in operational activity beyond Israel’s borders,” a senior officer in Unit 8200 told military reporters on Tuesday, referring to the interception and analysis of signal intelligence gathered by troops. “Because of our abilities, we are very attractive to foreign countries,” he added.

The ISIS-inspired attack against an Etihad Airways flight originating in the Australian city of Sydney to Abu Dhabi was thwarted by Australian officials in July. Four men were arrested in Sydney suburbs for planning two separate attacks. One of the attacks involved planting an improvised explosive device on an unwitting “mule,”  who would carry the device on board the plane where it would be detonated in the air.

Local press at the time quoted Australian police as stating that one suspect planned to plant military-grade explosives that had been sent by a senior ISIS operative through international air cargo to the suspects in Australia.

For that plot, the New South Wales Joint Counter Terrorism Team charged 49-year-old Khaled Mahmoud Khayat and 32-year-old Mahmoud Khayat with two counts each of acts in preparation for a terrorist act.

While the loss of the Islamic State group’s territorial “caliphate” may have crumbled, the IDF does not believe it to the be the end of the threat posed by the terror group, as militants have moved from Syria and Iraq to places like Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel.

Unit 8200 soldiers were also responsible for thwarting a recent Iranian hacking attack against private and public organizations in Israel.

The attack by a hacking group was thwarted in cooperation with the Defense Division of the Telecommunications Department by the “close monitoring of the operations of the Iranian network and the early identification of attempts to attack Israel,” the IDF said.

According to ClearSky, an Israeli cyber-security company that has studied the malware behind cyber-attacks across the region, the group has been targeting multiple organizations in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries such as in Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon since 2015.

In one attack against the UAE government uncovered by Palo Alto Networks, another cyber-security company which has been monitoring the group, sent spear-phishing emails with the subject line “Important Issue” that were in reality malware-infected documents.

A January 2017 report by ClearSky stated that the hacking group set up a fake VPN web portal and targeted several Israeli IT vendors, financial institutions and the Israeli Post since the end of 2015.

“Today, cyber is an additional front on which Israel has significant offensive and defensive capabilities,” a senior officer in Unit 8200 said Tuesday.

“Iran is a very smart country with advanced technology and a lot of motivation,” the officer stated, adding that he respects the intelligence of his enemy, which is “increasing its offensive capabilities.”

According to the senior officer, the unit has also been very effective in thwarting dozens of potential attacks by lone-wolf Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of the latest wave of violence, which broke out in 2015.

“When we see talk of an attack that can happen in the next 10 minutes, we need to act in an effective and quick manner in order to stop it,” he said. “There is a lot of responsibility sitting on the shoulders of these young officers.”

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