Most Israelis confident nation ready for major cyber-attack

Israelis are far more trusting than others that their country is safe from cyber-attacks, are they right?

January 9, 2019 16:59
2 minute read.
Computer code and an Israeli flag

Computer code and an Israeli flag. (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)


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The Israeli public is more confident than any other nation that its country is prepared for a major cyberattack, a survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center revealed on Wednesday.

Less than half (47%) of international publics across 26 countries surveyed said national authorities were well-prepared to handle a major attack on government data, public infrastructure and elections.

In Israel, however, some 73% of the public – more than any other nation surveyed – believed the country was ready to fend off such a hack.

Two-thirds of Russians (67%) and just over half of Americans (53%) expressed their confidence in their country’s readiness while, at the other end of the spectrum, fewer than one in five Brazilians (16%) and only one in 10 Argentineans (9%) shared that view.

The survey noted in many cases a correlation between views regarding a country’s preparedness and attitudes toward the governing party.

In the US, which has suffered over 100 major cyber incidents since 2006, 61% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents expressed their belief that the country is prepared for an attack on computer systems, compared to only 47% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

Over three-quarters of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s supporters expressed their optimism regarding their country’s readiness, compared to 61% among those who don’t support his leadership. Similar patterns are also apparent in countries across Africa and Europe and in Canada.

Across the publics surveyed, an average of 74% of individuals said an attack targeting sensitive national information is either very or somewhat likely, or believe that it has already occurred. Some 69% fear an attack on public infrastructure, and 61% fear election tampering.

In the case of the Israeli public, 59% believe that a future cyberattack resulting in access to the country’s sensitive national security information is likely, 67% believe that public infrastructure could be damaged, and 62% believe that elections could be tampered with.

Notably below average, a significantly smaller number of Russians (44%) said election tampering is likely to take place in their domestic elections.

The survey also revealed considerable differences in perceptions between age groups in many Western countries. The most striking difference was in Sweden, where 53% of 18-29-year-old Swedes think an attack on infrastructure is likely, compared with 82% of Swedes above the age of 50.

Double-digit gaps also were identified in Canada, the US, Australia and most of Western Europe. In Brazil, however, the trend was reversed, with 70% of 18-29-year-old Brazilians fearing an attack on public infrastructure compared to only 47% of citizens above the age of 50.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Nadav Argaman warned that a foreign country “is trying to intervene” in Israel’s April general elections.

While the Israel National Cyber Directorate, established in April 2016 and located within the Prime Minister’s Office, is tasked with ensuring cyber defense in the civilian sphere, the country’s Central Elections Committee does not fall under its jurisdiction.

Responding to the report, the Shin Bet issued a statement seeking to reduce fears of possible election tampering.

“Following this evening’s announcements, the Shin Bet wishes to clarify that the State of Israel and the intelligence community have the tools and the capability to identify, monitor and thwart attempts of foreign interference, should there be any,” the statement read.

“The Israeli security establishment has the ability to ensure democratic and free elections in the State of Israel.”

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