Israeli Firm Vying With Chinese for Highly Sensitive Plant Hit by Cyberattack

An Israeli infrastructure company bidding against a Chinese firm to build a desalinization plant was the target of a recent cyberattack, though it is not yet clear what information the attackers sought and how well they succeeded, defense sources told Haaretz.

In May, Nir Ben-Moshe, the head of Malmab, the Defense Ministry’s security department, told Israel’s tenders committee he strongly opposed the bid by the Hong Kong-based company, Hutchison Water.

– Haaretz Weekly 12/11

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The investigation into the cyberattack was launched after the National Cyber Directorate received information indicating that the targets were company officials planning the project, including engineers and other experts, the sources said.

Hutchison has reached the final stage of the bidding despite American pressure to halt infrastructure deals with China and despite the warning by Malmab.

The desalination plant, Soreq B, is to be built near an existing plant near the Palmahim air base on the coast between Tel Aviv and Ashdod. The new plant will also be near the Soreq Nuclear Research Center and be the largest of its kind in the world.

According to early estimates, the new plant will be able to produce 200 million cubic meters of water annually. The cost of its construction is expected at 5.2 billion shekels ($1.5 billion).

Construction is due to take three years, with the winning company authorized to operate the facility until 2049.