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Israel plans ‘Cyber-Dome’ to defeat digital attacks from Iran and others

Already has 'Iron Dome' – does it need another hero?

The new head of Israel's National Cyber Directorate (INCD) has announced the nation intends to build a "Cyber-Dome" – a national defense system to fend off digital attacks.

Gaby Portnoy, director general of INCD, revealed plans for Cyber-Dome on Tuesday, delivering his first public speech since his appointment to the role in February. Portnoy is a 31-year veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, which he exited as a brigadier general after also serving as head of operations for the Intelligence Corps, and leading visual intelligence team Unit 9900.

"The Cyber-Dome will elevate national cyber security by implementing new mechanisms in the national cyber perimeter, reducing the harm from cyber attacks at scale," Portnoy told a conference in Tel Aviv. "The Cyber-Dome will also provide tools and services to elevate the protection of the national assets as a whole. The Dome is a new big data, AI, overall approach to proactive defense. It will synchronize nation-level real-time detection, analysis, and mitigation of threats."

Portnoy said the Cyber-Dome is needed because INCD detected and defeated 1,500 cyber-attacks last year alone. The agency even named the dominant source of those attacks.

"Iran has become our dominant rival in cyber, together with Hezbollah and Hamas,” Portnoy declared. "We see them, we know how they work, and we are there. On the other hand, the spectrum also was stretched – to attackers, attack groups, proxies, independent crime organizations, and private people."

That rogues' gallery means Israel thinks it needs extra defences – hence the Cyber-Dome plan.

Israel already operates an air defense system called "Iron Dome" that was initially developed to destroy short-range rockets. Iron Dome also uses automation, but is controversial on account of its high cost, disputed effectiveness, and deployment during the ongoing Palestine/Israel conflict.

The very name "Cyber-dome" is therefore more than a little provocative.

Portnoy's speech didn't touch on the project's potential to provoke, nor suggest when the Cyber-Dome will be operational.

But he did say the Dome alone won't help Israel to secure its digital domain.

"You cannot fight cyber aggression alone," he said. "You have to have partners – at home, in your defense community, in the government, in the different sectors, in the academy, in the private sector, and around the world." ®

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