Israel cyber chief: We are protecting vaccine efforts from hacking

Infected persons alerts database delayed by a week to secure privacy; Guarding Passover Zoom Seders from attack.

A man types into a keyboard during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. (photo credit: REUTERS/STEVE MARCUS)
A man types into a keyboard during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STEVE MARCUS)
Important aspects of the country’s efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus are networked and are vulnerable to a variety of cyber attacks, Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD) Chief Yigal Unna said on Tuesday.
Speaking as part of a video conference Cybertech event, Unna said that the INCD has been in overdrive to protect a wide range of the health industry’s exponentially expanded online exposure in the age of corona.
He described a sudden shift in which the numerous new networked processes for tracking, contacting and managing sick and potentially sick people exploded in size and required an equally massive expansion in cyber defense.
Some of these processes reach an additional level of complexity when systems for industries that were producing classified weaponry for the IDF are converting portions of their efforts to working in the more exposed and open public health sector.
A launch of one major program that the Health Ministry is using to send out alerts relating to coronavirus was delayed for almost a week to address cyber defense and privacy concerns, noted Unna.
Next, Unna discussed the directorate's involvement in publicizing guidelines for securing Zoom video conferences, an application whose use has skyrocketed to cope with social distancing measures being used to combat the coronavirus, but which limit physical interactions between people.
He said that securing Zoom is even more important, with potentially hundreds of thousands of people about to use it to connect with family members in connection with the Passover Seder, which Jews celebrate on Wednesday night.
Unna did take a victory lap over “Op-Israel,” the name given to a campaign of cyber-attacks carried out by hackers against Israel annually around the Passover holiday.
In the past, the hackers have tended to identify with the international anarchic group "Anonymous," and with pro-Palestinian hacker groups, attacking Israeli Internet sites with the goal of disconnecting Israel from the cyber world.
While they have never fully succeeded, their past efforts seem to have caused greater fears compared to Unna’s assurances that his unit had the situation under control.
He also commented that medical supplies and technologies being brought to Israel by China and others had cyber vulnerabilities which his unit was defending against.
After Unna, former NSA chief and US cyber command chief Mike Rogers addressed the conference, saying those predicting that coronavirus would permanently change the way the world operates were correct, but that people should be slow to judge about what those changes would be.
Rogers said that while the crisis was unprecedented, his time dealing with national security crises for the US had taught him that it is important to take a step back and assess broader questions and visions of what the goals of an organization or society are.
While complimenting organizations and countries on their quick adaptation to life in the age of corona, he said that not all of the quickly thrown together new ways of doing things were optimal.
The former cyber command and NSA chief said that there could be a transition period where there would be a need to operate both old and new systems and ways of thinking simultaneously until the right balance could be achieved.