Greater cyber protection needed in Israel - Sa'ar

The Ministerial Committee approved a bill by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Sunday to give greater enforcement powers to the government regarding privacy rights.

 Israel's Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Israel's Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee held hearings on Monday to press for greater cyber protection for the country’s citizens following a series of mega hackings in recent weeks exposing personal data.

This came the day after the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Sunday to give greater enforcement powers to the government regarding privacy rights, including higher fines.

However, on display at the hearing was fighting about the way forward between committee chairman Gilad Kariv on one side and Privacy Authority official Ali Calderon and Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD) legal adviser Amit Ashkenazi on the other.

Kariv wanted them to give him a clear menu of options that the Knesset could pass into law to protect personal data and incentivize private companies to better protect it, but he was told instead that the problem was complex.

Calderon said that 75% of cases end in some kind of real enforcement.

 A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017.  (credit: REUTERS/KACPER PEMPEL/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO) A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/KACPER PEMPEL/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)

Ashkenazi said enforcement is not black and white and that, informally, the INCD has achieved substantial progress in getting the private sector to better protect citizens’ data.

This left Kariv flabbergasted, as he had expected either apologies or a readiness to go to war with private sector companies to achieve a quick paradigm change.

There was no clear menu for what to do next at the end of the hearing, though officials did reference Sa’ar’s bill.

However, when asked about how much the bill was increasing fines for private companies who failed to properly protect client’s data, his spokesman referred the issue to a Justice Ministry spokeswoman.

In turn, she said she would need to review the issue as the actual amount of the fines might still be under negotiation.

Very low-grade fines that were issued by the Privacy Authority, including for the Likud’s exposure of over 6.4 million citizens’ data during a recent election, were viewed as having close to no deterrent value.