Apr 16, 2024 - Technology

World braces for Iran-Israel cyberattacks following missile attack

Illustration of a photocopied image of a keyboard with elements of the Iranian flag.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cyberattacks are likely to be high on the list of options Israel and Iran are considering this week as they map out retaliatory actions, experts say.

Why it matters: Iran's drone and missile attack against Israel on Saturday brought the two nations into unprecedented territory.

  • Israel's military leaders have already vowed to respond to the attack.

The big picture: Israel and Iran have long had a fraught relationship, filled with covert operations and destructive cyberattacks.

  • Iran's weekend attack was the first time either country had launched a missile from its own territory toward the other.

What they're saying: "The overt hostility and the overt physical aspects of the state-on-state confrontation moved things into a different sphere," Andrew Borene, executive director for global security at Flashpoint, told Axios.

State of play: Cyberattacks tied to the Israel-Hamas conflict have already drawn in players from around the world.

  • Politically motivated hackers have taken down emergency service applications, news sites and more throughout the conflict.
  • Many of the groups involved are so-called hacktivist groups that researchers have tied to hackers based in Iran, Russia and elsewhere.

Threat level: Israel and Iran have the ability to launch destructive malware wipers, ransomware and other types of cyberattacks against each other, said Borene, who is also a former official for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Between the lines: Cyber operations can give countries the ability to retaliate without risking mass casualties, Borene said.

Yes, but: The Israel National Cyber Directorate told Politico it didn't see any "abnormal online activity" during the missile attack.

  • Many hacking groups spent the weekend claiming responsibility for attacks that didn't happen, analysts at intelligence group Flashpoint wrote in a blog post.

What's next: Israel is still weighing its options for retaliation, and Western leaders have been trying to talk the country into a more diplomatic response to prevent further escalation.

  • It could be a few days, or weeks, until Israel responds.
Go deeper