Feeds

Israeli sky-hack switched off Syrian radars countrywide

Backdoors penetrated without violence

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Same old iPad? NO. The new 'soft SIMs' are BIG NEWS
AppleSIM 'ware to allow quick switch of carriers
Brits: Google, can you scrape 60k pages from web, pleeease
Hey, c'mon Choc Factory, it's our 'right to be forgotten'
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
FCC, Google cast eye over millimetre wireless
The smaller the wave, the bigger 5G's chances of success
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.