A senior Israeli military figure is predicting that cyberattacks will spike in 2016 because nation-state actors will have no incentive to “behave” in the wake of the nuclear agreement with Iran, according to The Financial Times.
“In 2015, all the actors were trying to behave well, be good boys, because the global political system was very concentrated on the efforts to reach an arrangement regarding the Iranian issue,” Major General Uzi Moskovitz, head of the Israeli defence forces’ C4I Corps, told the publication.
“So the Iranians had no incentive to impose attack waves on the US banking system [or] to impose any attacks on oil and natural gas companies in the Gulf, as they did in 2012.”
Israeli officials blame Iranian nationalist hackers for 2012 strikes on the oil company Saudi Aramco and the Qatari gas company RasGas. U.S. banks were hit by another attack the following month.
Pointing to recent attacks on a Ukrainian power plant and Turkish banks as evidence of a ramping up of attacks, Moskovitz warned that the next wave of intrusions will likely take place in the “cyber-kinetic” realm.
He declined to point to specific actors he believed would be responsible for such attacks.
“I think that some of the players in the cyber-kinetic arena — this is my opinion — have decided to take their gloves off,” he said.
In December, around 700,000 people in a western region of Ukraine lost power in the first known blackout caused by a cyberattack. The attack is widely believed to have originated in Russia.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia have been in a steep decline since Russia annexed Crimea last year and began supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Over Christmas, a series of attacks disrupted services at Turkish banks. The country is currently at odds with Russia over Turkey’s support of anti-government rebels in Syria. Russia supports Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Cybersecurity experts believe both Russia and Iran to be capable of taking sophisticated action in cyberspace.
But arguably the most famous kinetic cyberattack to date was likely carried out as a joint venture between the U.S. and Israel.
The Stuxnet computer virus — discovered in 2010 — destroyed almost 20 percent of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and infiltrated a Russian nuclear power plant, according to security experts. The United States and Israel are suspected to be behind the virus.
Israel is one of the few nations to have prioritized building its military cyber capabilities. The nation is currently developing a new cyber command that will share equal weight with its land, air and sea divisions, Moskovitz said.
He compared the unregulated and unsettled state of cyberwarfare — with no established “rules of war” — to the early days of aerial warfare.
“In the cyber-kinetic domain we are still in the phase of carpet bombings,” Moskovitz said. “First of all, this is so easy; second, there aren’t any air forces or pilots or airfields that would identify the attacker’s identity.”
He indicated that while he doesn’t expect standards to be set immediately, determinations about what qualifies as “permissible damage to a nation” will have to be made.
“The nature and the depth and level of collateral damage or deliberate damage to the civilian domain will be topics that have to be discussed,” he said.