(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday that the country had faced a range of cyber attacks during the Gaza war: from an enemy state, from terrorist organizations, and from individual hackers.
He told the International Cybersecurity Conference at Tel Aviv University that, accordingly, the defense budget should be increased.
In addition to Ya’alon, former president Shimon Peres, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, and cyber experts from abroad discussed the challenges of cyber attacks at the conference.
The defense minister stated that, while the cyber arena is key for security, it costs a great deal of money, which means the IDF should receive the many billions it has demanded since the Gaza war.
Ya’alon also discussed collecting intelligence on hackers so that they can be confronted physically outside of cyberspace. Identifying hackers though such intelligence collection is crucial to deterring hackers from repeat attacks, he said.
Ya’alon also said that increased funding is needed to resupply the air force with precise munitions. Though he did not fully explain, many officials have said these are key for the IDF both in order to hit targets and in order to reduce indirect civilian casualties.
Ya’alon lashed out again at a group of 43 reservists from IDF cyber Unit 8200, who recently published a letter refusing to undertake IDF actions against Palestinians. The defense minister revealed that none of the 43 had served in the recent Gaza war and most had not been active since 2009.
In that light, Ya’alon said, their refusal to carry out orders took on an even more blatant political tone.
Former president Shimon Peres said that cyber attacks are “a passing weapon, because we will move from technological weapons to biotechnological weapons.” The former president said “our bodies have hundreds of computers” which can be tapped both for good and bad purposes.
On other issues, Peres said that making regional peace is a goal that is nearer than people think.
Speaking of the Islamic State threat, Peres said that the West cannot hope to kill every jihadist but rather must dry out the group’s sources of funding and use cyber and other technology to draw youth in the Middle East toward better lifestyles and away from paths to terrorism.
Peres also briefly waded into the current debate over the budget, suggesting that security, education, and pursuing peace and alliances with moderate Arabs in the region are linked, and that overemphasizing one at the expense of another is a mistake.
Peri was the next to tackle cyber threats.
Discussing his fight against terrorism and crime as a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Perry said, “We coped with the knives, explosive belts, rockets, and mortars.” But “to damage Israel today, all one needs is a laptop to deactivate systems, like turning off traffic lights.”
The minister said the country is working to stay ahead of cyber criminals by leveraging research from a wide range of fields.
“Israel is one of the central targets for cyber attacks; an attack happens every hour,” he said. “We need a cybernetic Iron Dome.”
US State Department Coordinator for Cyber Issues Christopher Painter talked about US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s common strong commitment to addressing cyber challenges.
Painter said he would travel to Beersheba on Tuesday to see Israel’s vaunted progress in establishing a new “cyber Silicon Valley” there.
He said the US had succeeded at raising international awareness on cyber issues so that it is no longer viewed merely as a technical problem, but a serious security and foreign policy issue.
While he seemed to ignore some present tensions between China and Russia on the one hand and the US on the other, Painter did discuss some cooperation in 2013 among the US, China, and Russia in establishing some baseline rules of cyber conduct for states – though exactly what those rules were was unclear.
Cyber representatives from Canada, England, NATO and many other countries, senior IDF officers and leading cyber security experts, such as Eugene Kaspersky, also addressed the conference on a range of cyber issues.
Bennett was also due to speak late Monday night.