The share of governments worldwide that can conduct cyber warfare and steal sensitive information is increasing, with 10 percent in 2016 achieving elite status as cyberspies. Cyberweapons, precision-guided munitions, cyberwarfare pilots and cybercriminal strategists were among the new practitioners, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Israel is among the nations that have a team devoted to defending its national interests. The report identifies seven teams that have used cyber to actively defend Israel’s classified systems against enemy attempts.
The Hebrew Cyberdefense Command, created in 2013 by the Israeli Defense Forces to defend against cyberthreats to its systems, employs a small team whose sole task is to act as a neutral technology department to check threats against Israeli government systems, the CSIS report states.
However, the efforts are only a fraction of what is needed to secure the nation’s systems from hacking, since it is very difficult to monitor global cyberspace as a whole, said Brig. Gen. Itamar Almog, a military technology engineer who was the military’s chief cyberoperations coordinator for six years. Israel is far from alone, as many governments and other governmental organizations around the world are also investing in cyberdefense, and a new generation of defenders are being trained.
Arabs and Muslims who control the biggest share of the world’s available space, including state-backed cyberespionage groups, are expected to go after Israelis in their own space, Almog added.
Most of the countries making serious steps to protect their cyberdefenses have an air force or military body devoted to defending such critical systems and are unlikely to field an entirely hacker-proof system, Almog said.
Other nations have dedicated security agencies that operate from government departments, such as Russia’s FSB Federal Security Service, or the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which Almog remembers arguing over whether to deploy cyberweapons on Israeli networks and creating scenarios of enemy attacks on Israel’s systems.
The Israeli Cyberdefense Command has a multi-tiered network monitoring and forensic database of classified information on its systems, and commanders receive advance warning if a threat to one of the dozens of “portions” of the network has emerged. The organization employs civilian experts and a team of military pilots to conduct exercises and make sense of mistakes that might occur in the operating environment.
“The very first rule for cyber warfare is you know who the enemy is, and in the case of Israel we know who the enemy is,” Almog said. “We know how to retaliate in case of an attack on us. If we know who it is we will retaliate. We won’t do it very often, but when we do, we know exactly how to react to the enemy’s attacks.”