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Israel cyberczar drops hints about country's new security initiative

PM pops in to brag about industry wins

Israel Cyber Week Israel is planning to develop a "state-level cyber-shield" to improve its resilience against hacking and malware, the country's newly appointed cyberczar said on Wednesday.

Yigal Unna, director of Israel's National Cyber Directorate, said the shield would mitigate threats from both private outfits and government organisations. The capabilities of the proposed technology, much less a timeline for its delivery and budget, were left vague, inviting comparisons to Ronald Reagan's anti-ballistic missile programme, the Strategic Defence Initiative (AKA Star Wars).

During a keynote address at the Israel Cyber Week conference, Unna also spoke about a new cyber law for Israel that formalises and provides a defined structure for co-operation between civilian organisation and government agencies.

Such co-operation already exists. It's unclear if the law defines and codifies regulations for surveillance or the other activities of Israel's famed military intelligence division, Unit 8200. At a follow-up press conference, Unna provided little by way of specifics other than to say the proposed law would have to go through a long legislative process. He did say that revamping Israel's cybersecurity doctrine would involve expanding the network the country already has in place for sharing intelligence about cyber threats between universities, industry and government organisations.

Private sector needs a little sumthin' sumthin' to get it sharing threat intel – US security chap


Unna told international journalists that the Israeli cybersecurity industry had arisen out of a need for the country to defend itself. "When young people finish military service they look to see how they can harness the innovative ideas they were part of developing in commercial applications," he said.

Unna added that Israel was looking to further build international co-operation and partnerships to fight against a growing cyber threat. Everything is vulnerable from airplanes to medical devices, according to Unna, who singled out the transportation and health sectors as on the front line of attack. Antagonists in cyberspace include criminal hackers and state-level adversaries. In Israel's view, the latter group consists almost entirely of Iran, which it believes attacks the country through other countries, whose security and resilience Israel would like to see bolstered in the interests of common cyber-defence.

Israel Cyber Week – part expo and part shop window – this year brought in 8,000 delegates from more than 66 countries. The goal is twofold: offer a strategy for national cybersecurity that other countries might want to emulate, and position Israel as the country with the most advanced technologies to bring in more customers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the conference to outline Israel's contributions to the global cybersecurity industry.

"Israel now receives 20 per cent of the total global private investment in cybersecurity," Netanyahu told delegates. "Given that we are about one-tenth of 1 per cent of the world's population, we are punching at about 200 our weight here. My goal eight years ago was to make Israel one of the five leading cyberpowers in the world, and I think we've reached that; I think we're actually maybe even further ahead on that list."

The country's cybersecurity industry scored exports of $3.8bn last year and investments of $815m. Israel has 420 native cybersecurity companies as well as 50 international research and development centres, according to figures cited by Netanyahu. ®

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