At a security conference in June, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon named Hezbollah-linked hackers responsible for last year’s orchestrated cyber attacks against the State of Israel. In a report released earlier this year, Israeli security firm Check Point Software Technologies confirmed the presence cyber-terrorists codenamed Volatile Cedar APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) and working primarily from within Lebanon, without naming those directly responsible.
While Ya’alon insisted that no “significant damage” had been caused, terror organizations inside Lebanon and Iran targeted government, military, and economic sites during Operation Protective Edge last summer.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon giving a speech at Tel Aviv University. (Photo: Israeli MoD)
In March 2015, Check Point reported to its clients that Israel and a number of Western countries had been the victims of a spying campaign since 2012 that they suspected of being run from Lebanon. The report indicated, “Monitoring these cyber infections was very challenging, due to the numerous ways in which they were disguised by the hackers.” Volatile Cedar uses a custom version of malware known as Explosive, a remote access Trojan that goes to great lengths to not only steal data from its victims, but also to hide its presence from victims and security software. Check Point said that is has found five variants of Explosive since it was first used in November 2012. Although only a few samples have been detected, there have been added features to each new version of the infectious program.
Ya’alon’s disclosure comes amid a decision by the Israeli military to expand its cyber operations to combat similar threats in the increasingly technologically driven world. IDF Chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot has affirmed the IDF’s commitment to adding cyber warfare as a fourth branch to its military operations, alongside land, sea, and air commands. According to an IDF spokesman, the new branch will take two years to become fully operational. “The IDF is required to excel in every aspect of war, including the cyber dimension, which is becoming more significant every day. This new command will empower the IDF to perform better in these fronts and will utilize the technological and human advantage that already exists in Israel,” said Eisenkot. The new Cyber Command will combine offensive and defensive capabilities now performed by Unit 8200 and other communities associated with Military Intelligence.