Israel National Cyber Directorate: Some 200 ransomware incidents reported by organizations in 2019

The Directorate set up a working group in collaboration with experts in the economy and academia to address the issue

Yigal Unna at the Cybertech Tokyo conference. Photo: Cybertech

Israeli organizations reported some 200 ransomware incidents in 2019, the National Cyber Directorate revealed this week.

An increase in the use of ransomware cyber-attacks has been identified worldwide. In Israel, the ransomware incidents were reported to the Cyber Directorate hotline 119 and to the police, though the Cyber Directorate said it is possible that many more incidents were handled privately by the organizations and not officially reported.

As such, the Directorate has set up a working group in collaboration with experts in the economy and academia to strengthen the economy’s capabilities in dealing with ransomware attacks. The working group will aim to formulate an overview of Israeli organizations’ challenges in this area and provide possible solutions.

The working group already held a meeting on July 21, 2020, chaired by Yuval Segev, head of the Center for Methodology and Resilience Tests at the National Cyber Directorate, in which it discussed two main issues - ways in which the State can reduce the exposure of cyber-attacks in the economy, and ways to strengthen the recovery capacity of an organization facing such an attack.

The working group heard from cybersecurity professionals about the challenges faced by organizations and small businesses.

Idan Tzabari, a representative of an information security company, told the panel that, "it is important that the CISO in the organization reflects to the management that sets policy, the consequences of ransomware attacks and raises awareness of the subject. One of the problems is that cyber people in organizations find it difficult to make the language of technology accessible.”

Another challenge faced by small businesses is the lack of backup provided, Oren, who provides technical services in the cyber field to small businesses explained.

"Small businesses do not have enough awareness of backups and they think that their IT systems are enough to protect themselves. Additionally, there is no agency responsible, so even if we create tools and methods for them that do not require a lot of resources, there will not necessarily be someone to turn to,” he said.

Oren also added that awareness of cyber-attacks and conducting employee training in cybersecurity was crucial.

Tamar Berenblum a researcher from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem presented a project for defending against ransomware in various organizations with an emphasis on local authorities. The project maps the safeguarding of the authority's information security procedures through a simulation of exposure to ransomware in an attempt to improve employees' responsiveness to work according to information security procedures.

Yuval Sinai, head of the Methodology field at the National Cyber Directorate presented a number of solutions for dealing with ransomware attacks saying that organizations are "not sufficiently aware of the security capabilities that exist in the systems they own and do not always understand the issue of ransomware."

"Raising general awareness of the organizations' existing systems and the consequences of ransomware will improve the organization's defensive capabilities," he said, adding that the Hebrew University simulation research can help organizations become better acquainted with the issue.

"It is important for organizations to recognize that there are security companies that offer services that manage to block or warn of a foreign entity's intrusion into their systems," he said.

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