Security Experts:

False Air Raid Sirens in Israel Possibly Triggered by Iranian Cyberattack

Air raid sirens sounded in the Israeli cities of Jerusalem and Eilat on Sunday evening and it appears that they were triggered by a cyberattack, possibly conducted by Iranian hackers.

The sirens, which warn the population about rocket attacks, blared for nearly an hour, according to local media reports.

An investigation conducted by the Israeli military found that the alarms were likely triggered by a cyberattack that appears to have targeted municipal public address systems rather than the military’s systems.

While it has yet to be confirmed, the main suspect is Iran, whose hackers often target Israeli organizations and systems.

“Whether this siren attack by Iran was a false flag or accidental triggering remains to be seen but the lack of municipal cybersecurity is clear,” said Ilan Barda, co-founder and CEO of industrial cybersecurity firm Radiflow. “If this was meant to cause disruption to civilian life, it would make more sense to conduct this incident during a religious holiday or time of large gatherings to shatter any sense of security.”

“It is possible that the sirens were triggered while hackers were still exploring for vulnerabilities within the municipality’s security system or that it was a false flag, being used as a distraction as another not yet published cyber attack was carried out,” Barda added. “An example of this was the 2017 Iranian cyber attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, where a breach was discovered, only to have thousands of computer systems compromised later, causing a devastating meltdown or explosion. Going after a municipality would bring a city or region to a halt, impacting supply chains, food deliveries, and more- putting a city under siege.”

This incident comes roughly two years after hackers targeted several water and wastewater facilities across Israel. Those attacks were linked to Iran and experts noted at the time that the attackers appeared to have knowledge of industrial control system (ICS) hacking.

The rocket siren incident comes just months after Iran claimed to have foiled what it described as massive cyberattacks aimed at public services owned by the government and private entities.

More recently, an exiled Iranian opposition group claimed that it had taken control of many websites run by Tehran's municipality and thousands of the city’s surveillance cameras.

In recent years, Iran’s critical infrastructure has often been targeted in cyberattacks, including airlines, nuclear facilities, railroad systems, ports, fuel services, and communication infrastructure. Some of these attacks have been blamed on Israel.

Related: Israel Says Its Fighter Jets Bombed Buildings Used by Hamas Cyber Unit

Related: Wiper Used in Attack on Iran National Media Network

Related: Microsoft Exposes Iran-Linked APT Targeting U.S., Israeli Defense Tech Sectors

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.