Defense Ministry to set up new cyber center

Ministry director general calls on Israeli hardware manufacturers in the private sector to develop defense tools against cyber threats.

Cyber warfare 370 (photo credit: Rick Wilking/Reuters)
Cyber warfare 370
(photo credit: Rick Wilking/Reuters)
The Ministry of Defense will set up a new cyber body to support Israeli defense industries in coping with cyber threats, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Udi Shani, Director General of the Ministry, announced at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday.
The new center will be based at the Ministry's Authority for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, Shani said.
"Our big challenge is the system. It's made up of [data] storage, and products that are totally civilian, like laptops," Shani said.
Noting that most military networks, such as the Ground Forces' Digital Ground Army system, use Windows, and that many components are made abroad, Shani said the threat "can't be fenced in for sure."
He called for Israeli manufacturers to begin producing routers, hardware, and microchips to decrease the threat of contaminated components entering sensitive systems.
"If we do this all in house, we enter a whole new budget vector," he said. Supervision of manufacturing will help contain new threats, Shani argued.
Israeli defense firms must be encouraged to provide in-house solutions when they build systems, while medium-sized and small start-ups should also receive encouragement, he said.
Criminals and terrorists in the virtual world represent a whole new threat category, and the time has come to do away with "traditional, linear thinking," Shani said.
The private sector is filled with creativity and must also be encouraged, as it can help Israel obtain state of the art defense tools to cope with emerging cyber threats, Shani stressed.
Israel's various security agencies should cooperate to ensure "transparency and commitment in the cyber defense realm," Shani said.
Dr. Eviatar Matania, head of the Israel National Cyber bureau at the Prime Minister's Office, warned against "illogical supervision" of manufacturing, noting that companies are global and free. "We have to be very, very careful," he said.
Matania said cyber challenges are posing a "threat to Western civilization as we know it," adding that terror organizations and criminals can undermine whole states. "The West doesn't know how to deal with this," he said.
At the same time, the new reality presented opportunities for economic growth. "We can't just have young, brilliant kids in intelligence units, who then go on to found start-ups. We need an Israeli ecosystem that takes the country forward," said Matania.
Key areas of growth include state infrastructure, academia, and industry, enabling Israel to be more ready and have enough qualified people to cope with the growing challenge.
The government has provided 50 million shekels for academic research projects in cyber defenses over the next three years, and more funds will be allocated, Matania said.
"There is a high school program to encourage development in this field," he added.