While Israel and Iran have long been engaged in a covert war, the targets have usually had a connection to the military or government. However, the cyber front of this conflict has recently widened to target civilians on a large scale. In recent weeks, a cyberattack on the Iranian fuel distribution network made it nearly impossible for Iranian drivers to purchase gasoline—a problem that took nearly two weeks to rectify.
While no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, experts widely attribute the disruption to a cyberattack launched by Israel. And that attack was followed days later by cyberattacks in Israel—including one that targeted a major medical facility and another that targeted a popular LGBTQ dating site. These attacks led to public disclosure of highly sensitive personal information about tens of thousands of Israel citizens. Israeli authorities have blamed Iran for those cyberattacks.
Some experts believe that these recent attacks may signal a sea change in this covert war. As government and military targets become “hardened,” making them more difficult to penetrate, state-sponsored hackers appear to be modifying their strategies to cause harm, and wreak havoc, by targeting ordinary citizens.
Nixon Peabody’s Cybersecurity & Privacy Team will continue to monitor developments.