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Israeli official says first wave of cyber hack was thwarted

(Bloomberg) -- An extensive cyber attack that hit 120 Israeli organizations in recent days was aimed at collecting information, but the government thwarted it before any data was leaked, a senior government cyber official told Bloomberg News.

“Four sectors were attacked -- government, health, academia, industry -- and when you look at all of them, the connecting thread is research and development,” said Rafi Franco, executive director of cyber regulation at the National Cyber Security Authority.

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Rows of colored high end data cables are seen feeding into racks of computer servers inside a comms room at an office in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. Vodafone Group Plc will ask telecommunications regulator Ofcom to guarantee that U.K. wireless carriers, which rely on BT's fiber network to transmit voice and data traffic across the country, are treated fairly when BT sets prices and connects their broadcasting towers. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Security breaches are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with Israel and the U.S. often targeted by some of the most advanced assaults, according to cyber experts. Israel is a global force in cyber security, drawing 15 percent of all capital the industry raised last year, according to Start-Up National Central, a group that promotes Israeli startups.

The assailants impersonated legitimate organizations and sent what looked like authentic emails with attachments that contained the malware, said Franco. Only three of the targets opened the email, and they didn’t have access to important data, he added.

Gone Phishin’

“We didn’t identify any stolen information,” he said.

Still, the attack was very advanced, which indicates a ”sophisticated organization” behind it, Franco said. He declined to give further details or say whether the attack could have been directed by a foreign nation.

Israel’s government helped affected organizations install a patch, he said.

“The first wave of the attack is behind us, and there will be a second wave,” Franco said. “We just don’t know when.”

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