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June 23, 2015 11:48 am

Netanyahu Details Israeli Cyber Defense Strategy, Efforts to Consolidate Cybersecurity Programs

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed on Sunday Israeli plans to consolidate cybersecurity efforts by establishing two umbrella organizations, one governmental and one military.

“The cyber needs and the cyber market is not a staid, low growth market where you can establish a position of dominance as we have and rest on your laurels,” said Netanyahu, addressing the 5th International Cybertech Conference at Tel Aviv University. “Therefore we have established two major arms to deal with this, two government resolutions that we accepted, that we passed a few weeks ago.”

The first of those two bodies is the National Cybersecurity Authority, which was established with the primary goal of protecting civilian cyberspace and the market, such as interference with banks or the Internet of Things.

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Netanyahu said the authority would “build market resilience, in order to define how we approach the question of defense.”

Increasingly, governments in advanced countries are looking at potential threats to civilian infrastructure by hackers, such as the taking over of a hospital’s system, national banks, or electrical or water services.

The prime minister’s comments came as U.S. officials revealed that the extent of a recent cyber breach — believed to be Chinese — at the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management may have affected up to 12 million employees.

Israel’s highest-ranking cyber official, Eviatar Matania, who heads the Israeli National Cyber Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office, has warned that Iran is working to bolster its cyber capabilities, which would include the ability to attack, over the next three to five years.

“Dealing with the cyber threat on the national level in the coming decades constitutes a strategic challenge that all countries must deal with,” Matania, who is playing a major role in the development of the new cyber authority, told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the authority will “oversee cyber defense actions so as to provide a comprehensive response against cyber-attacks including dealing with threats and events in real time.”

The second arm Netanyahu discussed on Tuesday was the “IDF cyber forces.”

The IDF recently defined cyberspace as the fifth realm of combat, alongside land, air, water and space, according to Haaretz. The unit would bring together soldiers from intelligence and telecommunications units to prepare the army to defend its online networks.

Netanyahu said the greatest cyber threats are posed by governments, rather than individual hackers or nongovernmental organizations.

“The greatest threat comes from governments, and like-minded governments that want to protect the privacy of their citizens, their bank accounts, their infrastructure, their economies, have to work as far as they can together to cooperate against this new threat,” he said. “Specifically, Iran has been launching attacks against us, against Saudi Arabia, against the United States, against many others, and we’re determined to enable ourselves to protect ourselves from these attacks and others. And the way we’re doing it is this combination of government, military, academia and business. We think this is a potent opportunity.”

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