Israel's Cyber Shot at Syria

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Our friends at Av Week have this story so wired, I couldnt wait to post this update. And, as you well know, Im a bit obsessed with it.

It now seems that one of Israels first shots in its raid into Syria in September was a fusillade of 1s and 0s.

From Aviation Week:

The U.S. was monitoring the electronic emissions coming from Syria during Israels September attack; andalthough there was no direct American help in destroying a nuclear reactorthere was some advice provided beforehand, military and aerospace industry officials tell Aviation Week & Space Technology.

That surveillance is providing clues about how Israeli aircraft managed to slip past Syrian air defenses to bomb the site at Dayr az-Zawr. The main attack was preceded by an engagement with a single Syrian radar site at Tall al-Abuad near the Turkish border. It was assaulted with what appears to be a combination of electronic attack and precision bombs to enable the Israeli force to enter and exit Syrian airspace. Almost immediately, the entire Syrian radar system went off the air for a period of time that included the raid, say U.S. intelligence analysts.

There was no U.S. active engagement other than consulting on potential target vulnerabilities, says a U.S. electronic warfare specialist.

Elements of the attack included some brute-force jamming, which is still an important element of attacking air defenses, U.S. analysts say. Also, Syrian air defenses are still centralized and dependent on dedicated HF and VHF communications, which made them vulnerable. The analysts dont believe any part of Syrias electrical grid was shut down. They do contend that network penetration involved both remote air-to-ground electronic attack and penetration through computer-to-computer links.

There also were some higher-level, nontactical penetrations, either direct or as diversions and spoofs, of the Syrian command-and-control capability, done through network attack, says an intelligence specialist.

These observations provide evidence that a sophisticated network attack and electronic hacking capability is an operational part of the Israel Defense Forces arsenal of digital weapons.

Despite being hobbled by the restrictions of secrecy and diplomacy, Israeli military and government officials confirm that network invasion, information warfare and electronic attack are part of Israels defense capabilities.

And the cool thing was that it seems that Israel was able to do this cyber attack from the air.

That ability of nonstealthy Israeli aircraft to penetrate without interference rests in part on technology, carried on board modified aircraft, that allowed specialists to hack into Syrias networked air defense system, said U.S. military and industry officials in the attacks aftermath.

Network raiders can conduct their invasion from an aircraft into a network and then jump from network to network until they are into the targets communications loop. Whether the network is wireless or wired doesnt matter anymore, says a U.S. industry specialist.

And it seems the Syrian governments self-imposed secrecy was partly to blame for the shut-down.

The raid on Syria was a strategic signal, not a threat, says a retired senior military official who flew combat in the region for decades. This [raid] was about what we perceived are their capabilities [for developing weapons of mass destruction] and about deterrence more than creating damage.

He contends that Syrian procedures even contributed to the successful bombing raid.

Part of the vulnerability of the Syrian facility was that they kept it so secret that there werent enough air defenses assigned to it, the official contends.

Be sure to read the rest of this fascinating story and really kick ass reporting HERE.

(Gouge: NC)

-- Christian

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