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Syria's Electronic Army attempted attack on Haifa's water system

Hackers reportedly tried to cyberattack Israel in response to air strikes on targets in Damascus.

Syrian electronic army cyber attack haifaEnlarge
Syria's Electronic Army attempted to hack Haifa's water system earlier this month. (Thomas Samson /AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's Electronic Army attempted a cyber attack on Haifa's water system earlier this month, an Israeli official announced Saturday

Professor Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, chairman of Israel's National Council for Research and Development, said that hackers loyal to Assad launched an attack on the computers that control the Israeli city's water.

It appears to be retaliation for Israeli attacks on Damascus targets earlier this month, YNet News reported

The hacking collective posted online that the attack occurred May 6, and that they had accessed sensitive information that would enable them to cause "irreparable damage" to Israel's infrastructure. 

"We have to constantly think about the upcoming threats," Yisrael said Saturday. "There's the 'Syrian Electronic Army' which acts against Israel, and we're not sure who's behind it.They attacked two weeks ago the Haifa water system because they apparently spotted an opportunity, which failed." 

He did not give further details about the unsuccessful attack. 

More from GlobalPost: An interview with the Syrian Electronic Army

Yisrael established Israel's National Cyber Bureau, and was speaking at an open event in Be'ersheba Saturday. 

"The number of cyber attacks [on Israel] is huge," he said. "We're talking about an attack every moment." 

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said the city was "not aware of any such attempt by Syria," but acknowledged that Haifa is a "strategic target" for Israel's "enemies." 

"We keep training and preparing for emergencies," Yahav said. "Haifa was and stays strong." 

This type of attack is the sort of thing that keeps experts in cyber security up at night, GlobalPost's correspondent in Israel Noga Tarnopolsky reported.

In an interview with GlobalPost last October, Boaz Dolev, who was head of Israel's cyber security office for 13 years, mentioned attacks on water systems as one of his nightmare scenarios.

"A biological strike initiated by cyber attack … someone taking control of the platform and infusing toxins into the water system, someone taking control of power networks, GPS systems. My nightmare is that a lot of people would be killed," he said.

This development — the second attack on Israeli targets by Syrian forces this week — has opened up new fronts in the Syrian war.

"It comes in the same week as shots taken against an Israeli tank on the Golan Heights," said GlobalPost's Israel correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky. "As such, it may indicate a new direction Assad's forces are taking." 

The Syrian Electronic Army, a shadowy group working on behalf of the Syrian government, has already drawn the attention of US authorities, who are also facing cyber attacks on several fronts.

The SEA has launched successful large-scale attacks in the past, including the Associated Press Twitter accounts and Britain's Financial Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers.

More from GlobalPost: Series: Battlefield Internet

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/130525/syrias-electronic-army-attempted-attack-haifas-water-system