Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed the Israel Cyber Week plenary audience at Tel Aviv University today explaining his conversion to the importance of cyber-security.
It was after being given a fictional book on a cyber-war between China and America, which he then read in one night, that Netanyahu says he, "...decided we needed to do something to protect Israel .., so we put together a plan."
Shortly into his introduction lights began flashing and the screen came up telling the audience that the conference had been hacked from a nearby country, and our bank accounts were being emptied and messages and credentials stolen: of course it was a simulation, but Netanyahu suggested that the scenario was not far-fetched and that many states can do much worse. "They can cripple our most sensitive systems and actually take over some of them. And its already happening in the real world or all of you wouldn't be here in this business."
The state of Israel has been under actual or perceived existential threat since its foundation, so after describing nightmare technological developments (such as an attack on New York by 10 million explosive armed micro-drone using face recognition to pick targets, requiring just three people to programme and launch ), Netanyahu said of digital development: "Its an ever present race and we need to keep running ahead, but its going to be increasingly challenging. Because there is unbelievable opportunity and growth in digital age. We are committed to delivering."
He noted how Israel gets almost 20 percent of all private sector global investment in cyber, and because of the country's obvious need it has become a focal point, enabling it to reach beyond its goals saying: “My goal eight years ago was to make Israel one of the five leading cyber-powers in the world, and I think we've reached that; I think we're actually maybe even further ahead on that list.”
Netanyahu described how Israel, "...is committed to spend enormous amounts its intelligence services, on Shin Bet, Mossad, and more and more of that spend is going into cyber. And there is already a huge sunk cost. Its needed because the world is undergoing a profound change," noting how five tech companies were now in the global top ten companies with one energy company, while it was the reverse a decade ago
Prior to Netanyahu's presentation, Dr Orna Berry, when accepting her award of Cyber Defender for Israel, described how the country was building Be'er Sheba in the Negev to be the capital of cyber globally as cyber represented the biggest opportunity for Israel to grow its economy in a step function. Netanyahu elaborated, explaining how the Be'er Sheba cyber-security complex includes the headquarters of the IDF's 8200 unit, CERT Israel, Cyberspark, and the university.
"We have military, academic and business within 200 m so they can talk to each other. This idea has profound benefits because minds fertilise each other when they meet. Still in the digital age meeting and talking has has tremendous advantages. There's also a risk involved. Always a risk. The risk is a security risk, especially vis-a-vis our military applications or security applications that involve state security, but I'm willing to take on that risk because I believe cyber-security grows through cooperation.”
He added that while digitsation, growth of data and its analysis and communicaiton represents, "Unbelieveable opportunities and challenges. There will be no silver bullet. We can monitor quite a bit and stop quite a bit but we need to keep running ahead, faster and faster and faster, and it will be tested by criminals, terrorists and other states."