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Israel’s cyber defence chief reveals concerns over increase in Iranian cyberattacks

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Israel’s cyber defence chief reveals concerns over increase in Iranian cyberattacks

After suspected Iranian hackers claimed a string of recent attacks on Israeli security cameras, Israel’s cyber defence chief told CNN he is “very concerned” that Iran could escalate its long-running covert battle with Israel in cyberspace with more serious attacks on infrastructure as the war between Israel and Hamas shows no sign of ending.

“They [Iran] know that they can act there more freely [in cyberspace] than in the physical space,” said Gaby Portnoy, the head of the Israel National Cyber Directorate. “We are prepared for that as much as we can.”

Portnoy said there would be a “cost” to any Iranian escalation in cyberspace, implying that Israeli hackers could retaliate against Iran with their own operations.

But Portnoy, who is in charge of cyber defence and not offence, said his goal is to keep cyberspace from becoming “another front” in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Iranian hacking groups have proven adept at crippling computer systems at companies in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Israel has its own elite cyber operatives that are alongside the US, widely suspected to have conducted a cyberattack on an Iranian nuclear facility in 2009. And Israeli covert cyber operations against Iran have continued in recent years.

READ ALSO: Over 1,400 lives lost as Hamas-Israel conflict enters 22nd day

Before the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israel has been a target of cyberattacks, and Iranian hackers have been persistently blamed for some of them.

However, it is not yet clear if Iran’s hacking forces were engaged in the current conflict. Pro-Israel groups have waged their own attacks, targeting Palestinian organisations with cyberattacks.

According to a report published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Israel is one of the strongest nations when it comes to cyber capabilities, the country has been ranked on par with Australia, Canada, China, France, Russia and Britain, and above Iran and North Korea.

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