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Israeli cyber security

“Early assessments and a quick response from the directorate and staff on the ground halted the attempts and no damage was caused,” said a joint statement issued by the Health Ministry and National Cyber Directorate on Sunday.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Several Israeli medical institutions soldiered on with caring for patients in the face of an intense wave of weekend ransomware malware attacks.

“Early assessments and a quick response from the directorate and staff on the ground halted the attempts and no damage was caused,” said a joint statement issued by the Health Ministry and National Cyber Directorate on Sunday.

According to Hebrew media reports, nine health care institutions have been targeted. The statement didn’t identify which medical centers were under attack, but the cyber onslaught began on Thursday at the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera. On Sunday, Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center confirmed to Ynet that it too was under attack. Those reports also said the affected medical centers cancelled most non-urgent medical procedures.

Hebrew reports said Hillel Yaffe’s patient registry was among the systems affected, making it difficult to receive and discharge patients, and that staff were getting by with working manually and using unspecified alternative computer systems.

A ransomware malware attack is when a hacker breaks into a computer network and locks the victim out of his data by encrypting it. Some such attacks encrypt individual files, while others lock victims out of the entire operating system. Victims are told they will be given a decryption tool to unlock their data if they pay a ransom, typically in cryptocurrency. Hackers often threaten to release or destroy sensitive data if ransoms aren’t paid.

However, in many ransomware attacks, even when a ransom is paid, the hackers don’t provide the promised tool or the data is returned corrupted.

Channel 12 News reported that Hillel Yaffe officials have been barred by the government from paying any ransom.

Reports didn’t indicate what demands or threats, if any, have been made by the hackers.

The Jerusalem Post cited CheckPoint, a California-based cyber-security provider, which said 627 attacks were observed over the weekend on Israeli medical centers. According to Hebrew reports, the malware strain is a relatively new and complex one called DeepBlueMagic.

Israel has been disproportionately targeted by hackers in 2021.

In July, CheckPoint founder Gil Shwed said that in the first six months of 2021, Israel was hit by more than double the number of cyber attacks than other countries.

More recently, a report on cyber security commissioned by Google and released on Thursday said Israel was the country most affected by ransomware since 2020, with a 600 percent increase in attacks over the previous year.