First of all – this week’s entry in our Top 10 APTs is a controversial one. Unit 8200 is officially an intelligence group in the Israeli army (the IDF) and not recognised by most cybersecurity institutions as an APT. However, that isn’t true of all cybersecurity professionals – certainly least of all the _secpro readership! With that in mind, our inclusion of Unit 8200 into our Top 10 APTs is due to the tactics and procedures that Unit 8200 has been observed using in the past and similarities it has to “conventional” APTs that we recognise.
With that out of the way, here’s a little info about this group…
What is Unit 8200?
Unit 8200 is the largest unit in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responsible for signals intelligence (SIGINT), cyber operations, and code decryption. The unit was established in 1952, and its primary mission is to gather intelligence on Israel’s enemies, both in the region and worldwide. Over the years, Unit 8200 has been involved in a wide range of intelligence and cyber operations, both offensive and defensive.
What attacks have Unit 8200 launched?
One of the most well-known cyber operations associated with Unit 8200 is the development of Stuxnet, a sophisticated computer worm that targeted industrial control systems used in Iran’s nuclear program. Stuxnet was designed to infiltrate Iran’s uranium enrichment facility and disrupt the country’s nuclear program by causing damage to the centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
Stuxnet was ground-breaking in its use of several advanced techniques, including exploiting previously unknown vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). It was also the first known example of a cyber weapon that caused physical damage to a target. The Stuxnet attack was a significant blow to Iran’s nuclear program and set back the country’s progress towards developing nuclear weapons by several years.
Is Unit 8200 linked with any other attacks?
Since the Stuxnet attack, there have been several other high-profile cyberattacks attributed to Unit 8200, although the Israeli government has not confirmed these reports. For example, it has been reported that Unit 8200 was involved in the development of the Flame malware, a highly sophisticated cyber weapon that was used to gather intelligence from targets in Iran, Syria, and other countries in the Middle East.
There have also been reports that Unit 8200 has been involved in other cyber attacks against Israel’s enemies, including the development of the Duqu malware and the discovery of a vulnerability in WhatsApp that was used to target human rights activists and journalists.
Other alleged malware that has been launched by Unit 8200 includes:
What does the Israeli government have to say about Unit 8200?
It is worth noting that the Israeli government has been generally tight-lipped about the activities of Unit 8200 and other intelligence agencies. However, it is widely believed that the unit plays a critical role in Israel’s national security and that it has been involved in a wide range of intelligence and cyber operations over the years.
Despite the successes of Stuxnet and other cyber operations, there are also concerns about the potential risks associated with cyber weapons. Cyber attacks can be difficult to attribute, and the use of cyber weapons could potentially escalate into physical conflict. The Stuxnet attack was a significant milestone in the history of cyber warfare, and it has raised important questions about the role of cyber weapons in modern conflict.
Unit 8200 is a highly secretive and powerful intelligence and cyber unit. Its role in the development of Stuxnet and other cyber operations has been widely reported, although the Israeli government has not confirmed these reports. The use of cyber weapons is an increasingly important aspect of modern conflict, and the success of Stuxnet has demonstrated the potential power of cyber attacks. However, there are also concerns about the risks associated with cyber weapons and the potential for escalation into physical conflict.
Want to find out more?
Check out these articles:
- Unit 8200: Israel’s cyber spy agency
- The rise of Unit 8200: How Israel’s cyber spies are helping to secure the nation
- Unit 8200: The Israeli intelligence unit that is the envy of the world
As previously stated, Unit 8200 is generally considered an intelligence agency and cybersecurity team.