Israeli cyber chief Unna steps down after four years in role

"Despite the drastic and escalating efforts by different [cyber] attackers, we succeeded at blocking thousands of cyber attacks in time - and before they caused broad damage to the civilian sector." 

Yigal Unna, head of technology at the Israeli Prime Minister's cyber directorate, gestures as he speaks at the Reuters Cyber Security Summit in Tel Aviv, Israel October 24, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Yigal Unna, head of technology at the Israeli Prime Minister's cyber directorate, gestures as he speaks at the Reuters Cyber Security Summit in Tel Aviv, Israel October 24, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

Israel National Cyber Directorate chief Yigal Unna has decided to step down after four years at the helm, though Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not yet selected his successor, the directorate and the Prime Minister’s Office announced Wednesday.

Unna was Israel’s third cyber chief, but the first with the full powers the directorate now possesses, including cyber defense powers once held by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency.)

Until a successor is selected, his deputy is running the agency.

When former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat stepped down only around a month after Bennett took power, Unna continued in office for another half-year. There were no outward signs prior to Wednesday that his tenure might not be further extended.

Past cyber chiefs Eviatar Matanya and Buky Carmeli served varying terms with differing authorities from Unna, such that it was always unclear how long Unna would serve.

Yigal Unna at the Cybertech Tokyo conference. (credit: CYBERTECH)Yigal Unna at the Cybertech Tokyo conference. (credit: CYBERTECH)

The process for replacing Unna is also more amorphous than for other agencies since there is no cyber law, and the cyber office is only around a decade old, with its activities continuing to evolve on almost a yearly basis.

Unna said, “It has been a great and rare honor to serve the State of Israel and to protect its security. Our fundamental mission of defending critical infrastructure was fully realized. Despite the drastic and escalating efforts by different [cyber] attackers, we succeeded at blocking thousands of cyberattacks in time – and before they caused broad damage to the civilian sector.”

He thanked both Netanyahu and Bennett as well as his large directorate workforce for the opportunity to serve.

Adding that the cybersphere requires cooperation, he said that during his term there was huge progress in cooperation between Israeli government agencies, the public-private sector and global cooperation with allies.

Prior to heading the directorate, Unna spent decades serving in a mix of the Shin Bet and the IDF’s Unit 8200, Israel’s NSA.