Mossad chief Yossi Cohen: Cyber intel is main tool against terrorism

The comments from the head of the Mossad are unique in that he rarely addresses public events.

June 26, 2019 03:00
2 minute read.
THE MOSSAD’S current head, Yossi Cohen

THE MOSSAD’S current head, Yossi Cohen. (photo credit: GALI TIBBON/REUTERS)


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Cyberintelligence has become the main tool in the world of counter-terrorism, according to Mossad head Yossi Cohen, and that the direction of the Internet of Things, or IoT, was redesigning the threat constellation that Israel and the West face.

In a rare public appearance for the Mossad chief, Cohen told the Cyber Week Tel Aviv University Conference on Tuesday that as a result, society is becoming increasingly vulnerable and more exposed. This risk, he added, is becoming more substantial as the vulnerabilities are being discovered by malicious elements.

The Mossad has addressed the challenge by creating a unique venture capital company called Libertad to give seed money to new potential dot-coms focusing on solving specific spy-industry solutions.

Accordingly, Cohen – who received an award for achievement in cyber – said that greater cooperation between governments, companies and societies is needed.

Former US National Security Agency and Cyber Command chief Mike Rogers said earlier at the same conference that Iran’s and the United States’ cyberattacks on each other in the middle of the nuclear standoff show that hacking attacks between countries in conflict will be on the rise.

Following Iran shooting down a US drone at the end of last week, Rogers said, “We see cyber, which has been an ongoing part of daily competition between states, will be part of the conflict between nations. The US and Iran both viewed cyber as a potent response option that offered lower risk than a kinetic or military strike. So we will see more of this. It is less escalatory. It sends a message, but does not necessarily trigger a response from the other side.”

The former top US intelligence and cyber official pointed out “the targets they went after. The US used cyber to respond against military targets [of Iran]. Iran chooses the cyber-response option to go not only after US government entities, but also entities in the private sector. In the West, we have drawn a line between the government and commercial sectors. Another takeaway is that I am not sure every nation in the world recognizes those same lines,” he said.

Rogers appeared to suggest that though experts have worried cyber could be used as an Armageddon-style weapon to destroy whole economic and infrastructure sectors that it is currently being used conservatively, such as in the ongoing US-Iran nuclear standoff.

Asked by Team8 CEO and former Unit 8200 commander Nadav Zafrir about the public-private sector issue in coping with cyber threats, Rogers said that the West must increase its knowledge of its defense structure.

Governments and the private sector together, he said, must do a better job of understanding what “our connectivity and interconnectedness is... what our critical processes are... and who are your key targets. As capable as government is, it can’t do it by itself, so who are their key partners that can help?”

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