Feeds

Israeli sky-hack switched off Syrian radars countrywide

Backdoors penetrated without violence

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More rumours are starting to leak out regarding the mysterious Israeli air raid against Syria in September. It is now suggested that "computer to computer" techniques and "air-to-ground network penetration" took place.

The latest revelations are made by well-connected Aviation Week journalists. Electronic-warfare correspondent David Fulghum says that US intelligence and military personnel "provided advice" to the Israelis regarding methods of breaking into the Syrian air-defence network.

Aviation Week's sources apparently said that the first move in the raid was a combined bombing and electronic attack on a Syrian radar site near the Turkish border, which allowed Israeli warplanes to fly in undetected. It seems that there was also some use of old-school brute force jamming.

So far, so conventional. However, Fulghum's unidentified Pentagon contacts also said that after the Israelis crossed into Syrian airspace, US sensors in the region noted that the whole Syrian radar system "went off the air" for some time while the main raid on the Dayr as-Zawr facility (believed to have been a nuclear plant of some kind) went ahead.

Presumably this means that Syrian long-range search radars across the country ceased to transmit. There is no suggestion that the radars were physically destroyed, which is believable as this would have called for strikes on multiple locations, which would probably have become known by now.

AV Week's Pentagon informers don't think that the Syrian power grid was shut down. Again, this would probably have become known, so their assessment is believable. It seems that, rather, centralised Syrian air-defence communications were hacked into. It appears that the Syrians rely on HF and VHF radio for at least some of their anti-air comms/data links, so this could be done relatively easily from aircraft (or even perhaps from across the border, in the case of HF).

There are also suggestions of more conventional network attacks via wired/cabled links, though there's not even a hint as to how the Israelis got access*.

Some of the hacks/spoofs/phreaking may not have been limited to the air-defence nets. There were "some higher-level, non-tactical penetrations, either direct or as diversions and spoofs of the Syrian command and control capability, done through network attack," according to an unnamed US intelligence analyst quoted by Av Week. The magazine promises more details next week, and the teaser is here.

You always have to treat leaks out of the Pentagon with caution. However, the Israelis' remarkably easy in-and-out to Dayr as-Zawr appears to be a fact, and until it happened the Syrian air defences were thought to be quite serious stuff. You'd have said that they would take some days to knock down, and that it would require a big air campaign involving a lot of exploding things. Getting in and out with the defences still up would have risked dogfights with Syrian fighters, or very long, fuel-guzzling, dangerous/impossible low-level flight profiles.

None of that seems to have occurred, so something strange took place. Network hacking seems like a very possible explanation. ®

*That said, special forces were doing missions to cut fibre lines as long ago as 1991 in order to compel the Iraqis to use easily-intercepted radio. There are rumours nowadays that certain teams specialise in attaching equipment to cable links rather than just cutting them.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Will BlackBerry make a comeback with its SQUARE smartphones?
Plus PC PIMs from company formerly known as RIM
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
EE buys 58 Phones 4u stores for £2.5m after picking over carcass
Operator says it will safeguard 359 jobs, plans lick of paint
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.