A group of hackers attempted to break into the city of Haifa’s water system computer network, according to an Israeli security expert.

From the AP via ABC News:

Speaking at a lecture on Saturday in the southern city of Beersheba, Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, Israel’s former cyber security adviser, said that a group calling itself “The Syrian Electronic Army” had launched the failed attack two weeks ago.

The Syrian Electronic Army however, maintains that it succeeded in infiltrating the network, in response to recent Israeli strikes.

In an email to Softpedia, the group stated:

“We would like to announce that in response to the unfair and illegal attacks, taken place by Israel on DATE, SEA has penetrated one of the main infrastructural systems (SCADA) in Haifa and managed to gain access to some sensitive data. Also SEA is now able to cause irrecoverable damages to the Israeli’s infrastructural systems,” the hackers said.

The breach comes in response to the recent Israeli strike on a Damascus research center.

“This message carries a serious caution to the Israeli statesmen. They should know that not receiving a quick reaction to such childish ventures, does not show the Syrian inability in doing so, but it is based on wisdom and humanity considerations. We do not approve of killing civilians and innocent people as this is an Israeli type of solution instead,” they added.

“Also an advise to those who left their homelands for many years, dreaming a happy and safe life, deceived by politicians whose deed is much far than their slogans; Do the best to express your objections to Israeli policies, since we do not like to see innocent people getting killed in Texas, US, but this time in Haifa.”

To demonstrate their attack, the hackers published a PDF file that contains screenshots of what appear to be SCADA control panels.

This news also comes on the heels of yet another #OpIsrael campaign, in which a variety of hackers claiming association to the Anonymous collective targeted various Israeli government websites.  Like its predecessor, the recent campaign also largely failed, with little damage to any major websites and only some minor defacements to a number of seemingly random small businesses and organizations.

A group of pro-Israel hackers claimed to have recently unmasked several of the individuals behind the latest #OpIsrael attacks.  Given that Anonymous is a leaderless movement, it is entirely possible that the actions of that particular group were a rogue operation conducted while hiding behind the banner of Anonymous.  There is no known association of any of those to the Syrian Electronic Army.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Electronic Army has also been busy hijacking the accounts of news outlets, most recently that of ITV News on Friday.

While the SEA’s selection of targets and its messaging, which usually consists of odd jokes mixed in with pro-Assad political propaganda, may seem like nothing more than “lulz” to some, there is a more serious side to the group’s actions.

From The Verve:

Much of the SEA’s recent activity has consisted of low-skill attacks on Twitter accounts and badly-made websites. However, researchers believe the group is capable of much more. There is reason to believe that members of the SEA widely distributed malware in the past, and that they may be capable of a serious attack against a business or even government in the future. “We’re a little concerned that there may be some more covert campaigns that could be in process right now,” said Ted Ross, director of HP security research’s field intelligence. “These guys are capable of doing very covert things.” […]

The group also runs a WikiLeaks-type site and has released documents that some activists and researchers say led to the persecution of revolutionary leaders. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has publicly endorsed the SEA as a “virtual army” to complement the real army. The HP researchers also found evidence that the government is providing support to the SEA, something both parties deny. In one case, a young man who was targeted for recruitment was told that he could avoid serving in the regular army if he entered the SEA.

As the Syrian Electronic Army continues its attacks on media outlets, the recent revelation that they launched an attack on an infrastructure target in Israel will surely draw the attention of industry experts who will likely be watching more closely what SEA’s other hand is doing.