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Avast Blog_News: This week in cybersecurity: Fighting hackers with missiles
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Israel responded to a Hamas cyberattack by bombing the enemy’s HQ, Baltimore grapples with ransomware, and the surprisingly small Dark Web

On Saturday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bombed a building in the Gaza Strip that they say housed Hamas hackers attacking Israel. The airstrike decimated the alleged hacker headquarters, marking the first time military force has been used as a direct response to a cyberattack. NATO declared “cyber” an official warfare domain in 2016, adding it to “land, sea, and air” in terms of where battles can be waged and fought. Israeli authorities claim an attack against the nation’s “cyberspace” led the IDF first to deal with the problem in the digital dimension, using cybersecurity to shut down the cyberattack, then deal with it in the physical dimension using the air strike.

Quote of the week

“After dealing with the cyber dimension, the Air Force dealt with it in the physical dimension.” – Israeli Defense Force spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manlis, on the IDF military response to a cyberattack.

It should be noted that the IDF and Hamas were already engaged in warfare in the Gaza Strip at the time, causing perhaps a stronger retaliation to a cyberattack than if a conflict had not been present. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condoned the retaliation, commenting, “The Israelis have every right to defend themselves.” In 2015, the US itself launched a drone strike to kill Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State hacker who had compromised US military intelligence. But while that strike took planning and recon first, the IDF airstrike on Hamas was immediate.

RobbinHood holds Baltimore ransom

The city of Baltimore was hit Tuesday with the aggressive ransomware known as “RobbinHood.” The cyberattack locked up most of the city’s municipal servers, causing chaos and confusion amidst residents trying to pay utility bills, city taxes, and property debts. City emergency services such as 911 are still in operation, but city hall and the police station have been digitally frozen and forced to rely on pencil, paper, and old-fashioned phone calls to keep the city running.

Avast Security Analyst Luis Corrons says the attack was systematic and devastating. “This is not the typical random attack that can affect anyone. We are talking here about a targeted attack where the attackers gain access to the victims’ network and after some reconnaissance move laterally through the network to identify and access all systems they want to compromise. Once there they launch a full-scale attack against them – in this case using ransomware.”

The mayor’s office firmly stated that it would not be paying the hackers’ $76,000 demand in return for unlocking the city’s files. Instead, city cybersecurity officials continue looking into decryption methods while also working with the FBI to identify the attackers. The city of Greenville, N.C., suffered a RobbinHood attack last month, and authorities want to discern if the attacks are related.
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