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Israel between cyber war and cyber warfare business

by Pierluigi Paganini on June 6th, 2012
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It’s not a secret, Israel military is one of the most advanced and active cyber army that is using cyber-warfare to attack its enemy in the cyber space. For years Israel conducts cyber espionage and cyber offensive operations that allow the state to operate undisturbed, away from media pressure always attentive to the controversial international policy of the government of the country.

To Israel must recognized the great merit of having invested significantly in cyber warfare in advance respect other states,  pushing the mostly on internal resources and on forming their own militias to cyber offensive techniques.

“The IDF has been engaged in cyber activity consistently and relentlessly, gathering intelligence and defending its own cyber space. Additionally if necessary the cyber space will be used to execute attacks and intelligence operations,”

This statement published on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) website, summarized the Israeli military approach to cyber warfare considering it in same way of conventional conflicts, admitting intelligence operations and cyber attacks against foreign governments.

According the information published on the IDF website the IDF Operations Department is the real core of IDF cyber warfare, giving the guidelines for the definition of cyber operations against the enemy of Israel.

But what’s the meaning for “cyber operations”?

With the term cyber operation is referred the usage of technology to interfere and destroy enemy projects with cyber attacks and cyber espionage activities, this new area of military discipline is often associated to conventional interventions to increase their efficiency and force.

“There are many, diverse, operational cyber warfare goals, including thwarting and disrupting enemy projects that attempt to limit operational freedom of both the IDF and the State of Israel, as well as incorporating cyber warfare activity in completing objectives at all fronts and in every kind of conflict,” according to declarations published.

Reading the declaration it’s impossible to don’t think to the recent events of Flame malware detecting and the revelations on Stuxnet project and the US “Olympic Games” operation. Both cases represents good example of the destructive power of cyber weapon used against critical infrastructure of a country. Meanwhile it seems sure the involvement of Israeli in the attacks against Iran conducted in collaboration with US using Stuxnet malware, no verified information are available on the creators of Flame agent.

According Israeli software companies, their country’s expertise with cyber weapons is very high supported by a strong government commitment that has created a pool of army-trained hacking talent.

Let’s propose the case of the Gil Shwed, founder, CEO, and chairman of board of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, who served in an elite intelligence unit and that, according his declarations, has recruited from the military cyber corps high skilled personnel for his company. The case is not isolated , Cyber-Ark Software Ltd., a firm specialized in cyber-defense drew on the same source to recruit specialists in the computer industry, has reported its Chief Executive Officer Udi Mokady said.

Israel has transformed the hacking in an impressive business that today has a great impact on national security and also on the economy of the country.

Its security sector is considered one of the most advanced all over the world, foreign governments and private companies refer it to protect their critical system, it has been estimated the official market amount is around $18 billion, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.

The awareness on the efficiency of a cyber attack is shared in the high level of the Israeli government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

“This is an era that we’re entering into where entire societies can be paralyzed by cyber attack, and Israel is no different,”  “We are committed to being one of the three leading cyber powers of the world.”

Government of Israel is massive investing on cyber security demonstrating a great attention to incoming cyber threats, it has announced that it will expend more than $13 million in the coming years to develop new technologies for cyber defense.

Networks, critical infrastructures, military environments and private companies must be protected from foreign cyber attacks.

Israeli networks are daily goal of thousands of cyber attacks conducted by hostile governments, hacktivist and independent hackers who want to compete with one of the most advanced nations, for obvious reasons are reported only in presence of substantial losses or sensational data breach.

The National Cyber Committee, a department under direct control of the Prime Minister’s Office, will coordinate with the Science and Technology Ministry the project during at least three years,  reserving each year $525,000 for advanced cyber security projects sponsored by corporations, and $80,000 to generation with scholarships.

The government of course has a great interest to improve security of its critical infrastructures, due this reason it will push the researchers to develop project that will cover there delicate areas such as banking, defense, government and smart grids in general.

The same thought is shared by hostile countries that daily attack Israeli system stressing the critical infrastructure of the country.

In January 2012 massive attacks against The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (ELAL) have blocked the operations leaving their websites down.

Israeli security services are engaging a security challenge with external hackers trying to put in place defense systems also able to trace back the origins of the attacks.

Yitzhak Ben Israel responsible for the creation of the National Cyber Directorate declared:

“We’re in pretty good shape with current threats, but the threats next year and two years from now are just going to get higher and we need to keep up,”

“Our biggest worry is damage to our major life systems that are all controlled by computers.”

A so complex situation is stimulating the security market and its growth, to give an example let’s analyze the progress made by the Check Point’s Software Technologies, traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market, that has increase its quotation more over 70 percent in the past two years reducing market share of its direct competitors Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Network, both have fallen more than 30 percent in the same period.

Other private companies are also investing on the creation of new solutions that could be proposed to te cyber security market, for example Elbit Systems Ltd., maybe the Israel’s biggest non-government defense contractor, will propose to the market a new cyber-security simulator, designed to train government and private companies to the proper response to cyber attacks.

Israeli private companies are proofing the hacking methods proposing high level consulting to the businesses of the world, developing and studying the most sophisticated attacks technologies and creating powerful tools and systems for both cyber offense and defense.

The reliability of Israeli companies is worldwide recognized, companies such as  Check Point have a 10.7 percent share of the world cyber security market by revenue in 2009, according to a November 2010 study by market researcher IDC.

The proceeds from information technology products are around $4.2 billion in 2010, with more than half of that coming from security, stating to the declaration of Yafit Katz- Rubin, business development manager for the industry at the Israel Export Institute in Tel Aviv.

Of course a so sustained market is attracting also external capital and investors, Goldman joined Jerusalem Venture Partners in a $40 million investment in Cyber- Ark, which has its research and development facilities in Petach Tikva, Israel.

In my personal opinion the investments in cyber defense are really judicious and profitable but we must also consider drawbacks to a totally opening to the security markets. The same companies that propose defense systems could arm foreign state militia with serious consequences. The belief that these concerns are only present in spy story films is wrong, the business follow only the money reason and it is already happened in the past that security companies has violated the technological embargo decided for rogue states such as Syria and Iran.

So let’s support the growth of the security industry, but beware the lure of the money god. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Pierluigi Paganini