A group claiming to be former Mossad agents threatened cyber attacks against South Africa, according to leaked intelligence documents. (Reuters)
China reportedly launched cyber attack on Israeli defence targets - (Reuters)

China is said to have launched a cyber attack targeting Israeli defence interests, but the attacks have been thwarted by experts in Tel Aviv.

Nearly 140 senior people working in the Israeli defence and security industry received an email containing a Trojan-horse virus originating from China, Israeli media reported. Trojan malware is intended to retrieve information automatically from the recipients and transfer it back to the source.

The email message was sent with a well-known German firm's name in the title, reported the country's Channel Two.

Targets of the attack were high-profile managers and supervisors working on Israel's classified projects.

The Jewish state is frequently targeted by hackers from Iran and Lebanon-based Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is building a "digital Iron Dome" to battle the increasing attacks.

"In the past few months, we have identified a significant increase in the scope of cyber attacks on Israel by Iran. These attacks are carried out directly by Iran and through its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah," he said in June. Israel's National Cyber Directorate is focused on combating hacking attacks on the country.

An initial probe into the latest attack on Israel has confirmed that the cyber offensive stemmed from China's defence facilities.

China has long been accused of sponsoring state-run hackers in a bid to boost Beijing's diplomatic, economic and defence grounding around the world.

The annual report of the US Department of Defence to Congress in May 2013 said: "In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the US government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military. China continues to engage in activities designed to support military procurement and modernisation. These include economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, export control violations, and technology transfer."

China has denied conducting state-sponsored cyber warfare.