Israel, UAE in joint drill of mega cyberattack on airline industry

The international disaster simulation held between seven countries is the first of its kind.

Illustrative photo of a cyberattack.  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative photo of a cyberattack.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Israel, the United Arab Emirates and five other countries engaged in the first-ever simulation of a mega-cyberattack on the international airline industry, the Israel National Cyber Directorate has announced.

Though the simulation took place in Dubai at Israel’s World Expo exhibition pavilion on Tuesday, it was made public by the INCD only on Wednesday, perhaps showing the sensitivity of the event.

The event was important enough that INCD chief Yigal Unna and his UAE counterpart, Dr. Mahmoud al-Kuwaiti, both personally attended.

Officials from the US, Germany, Greece, Morocco and Bahrain were also present, rounding out three of the four players in the Abraham Accords.

The fourth country that signed agreements with Israel toward normalization is Sudan, which is presently in the midst of a crisis after its military leadership recently overthrew its civilian transitional leadership.

A United Airlines Boeing 787 taxis as a United Airlines Boeing 767 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco (credit: REUTERS/LOUIS NASTRO)A United Airlines Boeing 787 taxis as a United Airlines Boeing 767 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco (credit: REUTERS/LOUIS NASTRO)

Attendees also included officials from airports, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, civil aviation authorities and a mix of public and private sector cyber experts.

“We need international coordination regarding the issue, after we have seen over the last decade a rise in both attempted attacks on the airline sector and in the sophistication of those attacks,” said INCD Center for Strategic Planning chief Tamir Goren, who was also previously a pilot.

“The world is evolving to being more online and digital, and the connections between the different actors substantially increases the probability of an attack,” Goren continued

Acknowledging that, “so far, there has not been an attack which could have endangered the safety of a flight,” it is necessary to invest far more in efforts to prevent such a scenario, since such an attempted attack has become increasingly likely.

In December 2020, the hacker group Pay2Key claimed it had successfully hacked a range of Israeli defense industry companies, including the largest Israeli airpower defense corporation, Israel Aerospace Industries.

There were signs on social media and elsewhere that the hack was part of an ongoing and concerted Iranian campaign to hack Israeli companies.

IAI did not publicly respond at the time.

Check Point has referred to Pay2Key as an elite hacker group that steals data which it then threatens to leak, if its target does not cooperate.

Pay2Key posted information relating to IAI, including its cyber chief.