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Thursday, March 28, 2013

‘Vital government, security data held on servers in utterly vulnerable facility’

Some of Israel’s most sensitive computer information is stored on servers in a building above ground in the south of the country, acutely vulnerable to attack or natural disaster, a TV investigative report said Wednesday.

A missile attack on the building could have devastating consequences, the Channel 10 report said.

It said the servers stored data relating to aspects of Israel’s security services, other critical information, and the websites of the Prime Minister’s Office, the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet and others.

“The whole f**king state is stored here,” a staffer at the facility said in the report, which was partially censored on national security grounds. The disabling of the facility would cause “the loss of government communication” and other consequences, the staffer said.

The report compared the Israeli facility with what it said was the US equivalent — a 145-acre site built 220 feet underground in Utah, whose location is not widely known. By contrast, the Israeli facility is above ground, and easily located, it said. Guy Lerer, of Channel 10′s “Night Tube” program, approached to what he said was “20 or 30 meters” from the windows of the building, holding a tripod on his shoulder — which he indicated could as well have been a shoulder-held missile launcher — and wandered around the area undisturbed for 30 minutes.

Lerer then entered the building, for a pre-arranged meeting with a staffer, and filmed employees complaining that “these kinds of places are usually underground,” and calling out to “close the windows.” He said that servers holding some of Israel’s “most important information” were on the other side of a thin glass wall from the office with the open windows.

The report also quoted from the minutes of an undated meeting of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee, in which former minister Michael Eitan questioned an official named only as A.K. about security provisions at the facility. A.K. told Eitan there were no regulatory standards for the protection of the facility against natural disaster or attack. The then-committee chair, Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, said the meeting had run out of time, but that it left worrying questions unanswered.

“If a missile fell here, the situation would be grave,” a staffer at the facility said, “and not only in connection with data bases.” There was no further elaboration.

The report was vague on the specifics of what data is stored at the facility, and which government and critical services are operated from its servers, but mention was made of electricity, water, aspects of Israel’s security apparatus, and the state prosecution.

An “official account” indicated that the websites of the Prime Minister’s Office, the president, the IDF, Shin Bet, and Mossad were also kept on the servers there, it said.

“It’s absurd” that this is all above ground, a staffer said.

“There is no protection whatsoever,” said a former senior government cyber official, named only as G. “This has been going on for years… It’s a huge blunder… We’re trusting to luck that nothing happens.”

In response to the report, the Finance Ministry, which is responsible for the facility, said the building was secured according to instructions by its security division, overseen by other security authorities.  


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