United Hatzalah hit by tens of thousands of cyberattacks past two days

The scale of the attacks over the past couple of days is causing concern as the country faces increasing threats from cybercriminals.

Illustrative image of a computer hacker (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Illustrative image of a computer hacker
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

United Hatzalah of Israel was hit with tens of thousands of cyberattacks over the past two days, the EMS organization reported in the latest development of the OPIsrael hacker attack against Israeli institutions.

The coordinated attacks have targeted government sites, and health and educational institutions and have now included a major focus on the critical emergency services provided by United Hatzalah. The scale of the attacks is causing concern as the country faces increasing threats from cybercriminals.

"We received notifications from the Israel National Cyber Directorate that we were one of the organizations that would likely come under attack," United Hatzalah Spokesperson Raphael Poch explained. "Over the past two days, we have seen tens of thousands of attempts from phishing scams to attempted direct logins which tried to gain control of management interfaces for the website (CMS). There have also been attempts to gain access to identification data and attempts to find or exploit weaknesses on our web pages in order to take down our main sites viz SQL injections. Thankfully our cyber team has been able to stop all of the attempts thus far."

In a bid to prevent future attacks, a major organization has received a recommendation to restrict access to its website using Geolocation technology. Only visitors from countries with lower cyber threat levels, including those in the European Union (EU) and North America, will be allowed to access the site until OPIsrael is over. This move comes after the organization was subjected to a series of cyber-attacks, prompting a review of its security measures.

"Limiting access to our website to countries that are less likely to have hackers who carry out cyber attacks against Israel, is just one of the tactics that we will be using to safeguard our site and the information contained therein," Poch said. "One of our websites has been hacked in the past and as a result, we have a very firm policy regarding cyber safety throughout the year. Our entire staff is briefed on this and has to undergo specialized training regularly to learn how to recognize the most common types of cyber and phishing attacks.

United Hatzalah Mobile Intensive Care Unit team - illustration (credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)United Hatzalah Mobile Intensive Care Unit team - illustration (credit: UNITED HATZALAH‏)

"Even though we are entering the holiday of Passover and in the month of Ramadan, times when many of our team are away or on vacation, we are maintaining vigilance against these attacks and have teams safeguarding our sites and information at all times."

Sites of major universities and Israel's largest cyber-security hacked

On Tuesday, one of Israel's largest cyber-security companies, Check Point, was temporarily taken down by a group of hackers calling themselves "Anonymous Sudan."

The websites of multiple major Israeli universities were also hacked by the same group earlier in the day for several hours.

Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Haifa University, Weizmann Institute of Science, Open University of Israel and Reichman University (IDC) were among the university sites that were unavailable for browsing due to the hacking.

The hacker group's statement

"Infrastructure: Universities - Israel education sector has been dropped because [sic] of what they did in Palestine," Anonymous Sudan said in their statement which was published on its Telegram account.

The group also mentioned that this attack was not the main attack and that attack will occur on April 7. It is not clear if the attack has penetrated into the institutions' systems.

"These are service-penetrating attacks - those that only bring down websites and do not steal information and that can be recovered from relatively easily," cyber-security firm Check Point told Maariv. "However, it can be assumed that these groups are trying to produce more significant attacks, including ransom attacks and data theft."