Shin Bet chief warns of 'real world surprises’ if cyber attackers go after Israel

Israeli MK Yair Lapid: Intel agencies should form task force to defend elections.

Cyber hacking (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Cyber hacking (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Cyber attackers “can expect real world surprises” if they go after Israel, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman told a Tel Aviv University cyber conference on Tuesday.
“Our defense does not recognize any borders... We follow threats everywhere... We connect the cyber and the physical world,” Argaman said in his first public remarks on cyber issues since taking over the agency in May 2016.
“We do not just wait to get hacked. We go aggressively after hackers to get them before they attack,” the Shin Bet director said.
He said the agency had “used cyber intelligence to stop many real world attacks,” including identifying 2,000 potential “lone-wolf” threats in 2016.
Responses to these threats could include a combination of Shin Bet arrests, those by the Palestinian Authority, as well as other forms of warnings to persons with profiles and social media indications that the agency views as at risk of becoming a lone-wolf attacker.
In March, Argaman said the Shin Bet’s cyber efforts had led to 402 arrests of potential lone-wolf attackers.
Moreover, the agency has stopped dozens of serious cyber attacks.
Throughout the world, he said, “we have recently seen cyber attacks on infrastructure, hacking of cars and...
stealing sensitive classified information.”
Part of what makes the cyber threat so dangerous is that attacks are “faster than most terror attacks” and attackers can also re-attack quickly if their first attempt is thwarted.
He also described “the asymmetry between the ease of the attacker to cause trouble” and the investment defenders must put it to thwart attacks.
Further, he noted that many states are using non-state actors and unaffiliated surrogates to cause major cyber damage.
Cyber defense “requires unprecedented cooperation” between the Shin Bet, IDF and Mossad and with foreign intelligence agencies, the private sector and academia,” he said.
Argaman indicated that the Shin Bet is “in the midst of a revolution, changing its technology department into a combined cyber-technology department.” Some 25% of the Shin Bet are now technologists, he said.
“We are getting the best hackers, and competing” with the private sector for them, he told the gathering Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, meanwhile, called for a task force composed of representatives of the Shin Bet, IDF and Mossad to focus on safe-guarding Israeli elections.
The task force should issue a report to President Reuven Rivlin since he is unaffiliated with political parties, he said.
Lapid told attendees this was necessary after the US and French elections were manipulated and with expectations that the next German election will be hacked, as well.
The Yesh Atid leader said, sarcastically: “What a plus it would be for the enemy to decide” who will be Israel’s prime minister.
He also warned about “fake news” manipulating elections, asserting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had used fake news in the last vote when he distributed a message that droves of Arabs were being bused to the voting booths. The impact of a foreign government using such tactics, he said, would be far worse.
“It is easier to hack newspapers or television stations than the Pentagon or the Mossad,” but this can also do major damage, Lapid said.