Israel is striving to become a world leader in the development of cyber capabilities, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday, days after the IDF revealed that it uses cyber space to conduct offensive military operations.
As reported on Sunday in The Jerusalem Post, the IDF revealed that its Operations Directorate recently drafted a document describing and defining the purpose and use of cyber warfare for the military.
In the document, the military officially admitted to engaging in cyber warfare for offensive purposes. The admission came a week after the “Flame” virus was discovered to have attacked Iran, widely presumed to have been developed by Israel.
“Israel is working to be a world leader in cyber capabilities – in the defense establishment and in the civil sector,” Barak said at a conference on cyber warfare at Tel Aviv University.
He said that military intelligence was responsible for the military’s cyber capabilities.
Barak warned of the potential damage cyber warfare can cause. “Cyber warfare has taken asymmetric warfare to a new height allowing a lone hacker to cause major damage,” he said.
Eugene Kaspersky, whose Moscow lab discovered the Flame virus, said at the conference that only a global effort could stop “cyber terrorism.”
“It’s not cyber war, it’s cyber terrorism and I’m afraid it’s just the beginning of the game... I’m afraid it will be the end of the world as we know it,” Kaspersky told reporters on the sidelines of the conference, which the Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security organized.
Flame effectively turns every computer it infects into the ultimate spy. It can turn on PC microphones to record conversations taking place near the computer, take screenshots, log instant messaging chats, gather data files and remotely change settings on computers.
Kaspersky named the United States, Britain, Israel, China, Russia and possibly India, Japan and Romania as countries with the ability to develop such software, but stopped short of saying which nation he thought was behind Flame.
When asked whether Israel was part of the solution or part of the problem regarding cyber war, Kaspersky said: “Both.”
“Flame is extremely complicated, but I think many countries can do the same or very similar, even countries that don’t have enough of the expertise at the moment.
They can employ engineers or kidnap them, or employ ‘hacktivists’,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.