Israel’s Cyberwar with Iran Heats Up

May 21, 2020 | Ron Ben-Yishai
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Earlier this month, Jerusalem, with Washington’s help, carried out a major cyberattack on a state-of-the-art port in the Islamic Republic, disrupting its economic activities and days of severe traffic jams. The strike was prompted by a thwarted—but potentially deadly—Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s water and sewage systems. Ron Ben-Yishai explains:

Through computers, it is possible to attack electricity grids, water facilities, hospitals, chemical plants, transportation hubs, and pipelines that transport gas and other fuels, thereby inflicting thousands more casualties and material damage than kinetic bomb damage, i.e., “regular” strikes using precise and sophisticated weaponry, intense artillery shelling, or a massive bomb attack.

[T]he Iranian attack could have paralyzed Israel’s sewage systems, disrupting the water supply for farming and aggravating sanitation problems in some areas of the country at the height of the pandemic. The potential damage to Israel by this attack could have been greater than the damage that some Iranian missiles have caused from Lebanon and Syria.

Israel decided to respond in line with the strategic policy it adopted after the Second Lebanon War in 2006. It retaliates severely and disproportionately to attacks by a group or sovereign state but stays below the threshold of a declaration of war. . . . Israel has learned the hard way that steady deterrence is the best defense, as it prevents attacks before they occur.

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