Feeds

Israeli sky-hack switched off Syrian radars countrywide

Backdoors penetrated without violence

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
EE fails to apologise for HUGE T-Mobile outage that hit Brits on Friday
Customer: 'Please change your name to occasionally somewhere'
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.