The shadows of Israel on the battlefield of cyberspace

The official portraits of the President Isaac Duke and the experienced prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu They oversee one of the operational rooms of the Israel National Cyber ​​Directorate (DCNI) headquarters, built in the heart of the Negev Desert in the biblical city of Beersheba, a technological island surrounded by a sea of ​​sand just less than an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv removed if one respects traffic, which serves as the cybersecurity capital of the Hebrew state. Reporting directly to the Prime Minister in the nature of its activities, the agency is one of the actors supporting ever-threatened national security in the digital battlefield. The new virtual front line is huge. It includes servers, routers, software, and the standards and protocols that facilitate communication and data transfer. This also includes websites, social networking platforms, online marketplaces, cloud services and a wide range of programs and applications. War 2.0 is waged on a broad and elusive terrain that is difficult to define and delimit.

Israel is one of the states receiving the most attacks in cyberspace. About 200 daily attacks come from Iranian servers, according to the prosecution of the National Cybernetic Directorate. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps employs at least 15 groups of “hackers” dedicated solely to destabilizing Israel online, denounces the cyber emergency team’s executive director. Erez Tidharwhich LA RAZÓN welcomes to its immaculate headquarters in Beersheba, at the gates of the thirteenth edition of Cyber​​Week, one of the largest global cybersecurity events based in Tel Aviv.

Tidhar claims to know the origin of the threats because “every attacker leaves their mark.” According to the National Cyber ​​Directorate Iran protects the Palestinian and Lebanese militias Hamas and Hezbollah in cyberspace, eternal allies in the struggle against Israel. “It’s like a free buffet, everyone decides whether to damage the systems or use the attacks for espionage activities,” says Tidhar. However, Iran is not the only state actor attacking them. China is also among the usual suspects, although the country is focusing its efforts on espionage “to obtain sensitive information”.

Tidhar represents a government-affiliated department that works hand-in-hand with the various agencies that make up the vast state security apparatus: the foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad; inside the Shin Bet; and military, aman. Alongside the Ministry of Defense and the powerful Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the institution that forms the backbone of society and through which every Israeli citizen must go, save for physical, mental or religious objections. Until now, Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, have been exempt from conscription into the army, a policy that has been harshly criticized by the most secular sections of society and whose hours may be numbered.

Institutional instability isn’t taking its toll on the agency, Tidhar says. Doubts are justified. And it is that Israel is suffering an unprecedented identity crisis, having celebrated until then Five elections in less than four years. The turbulent political cycle ended erroneously after last November’s elections, with the formation of the most right-wing government in history. Netanyahu, who has embarked on a Hungarian-style judicial reform that threatens to undermine the independence of judges, managed to win a majority in the Knesset with the usual ultra-Orthodox groups. But he included the far-right radicals of religious Zionism in the equation for the first time.

“We are professionals,” emphasizes the head of the cyber emergency team. The agency, he explains to this newspaper, will overcome the political conflict and remain in existence by order of a special judgein the election period. There is no danger that the incumbent prime minister will use the ministry’s work to his advantage.

The various security branches of the Hebrew state have billions in aid from the private sector. Ocean liners of the likes of Google, Amazon or Microsoft are taking sides in the crusade against the cyber threats facing Israel and have established their respective bases of operations in Beersheba. The big tech companies want to be part of the digital oasis in the middle of the Negev desert because of the generous tax incentives and attractive business opportunities offered by the Israeli market. For its part, the IDF is also beginning to install the C41, its elite technological unit, in the area. Both cooperate with the aim of supporting the situation He Cyber ​​Domea strong shield in cyberspace to protect against network attacks; Term that creates an analogy to the famous iron domethe Iron Dome protecting the skies of Israel from enemy missiles.

A “start-up nation” with military blood

Everyone wins in the cybersecurity business. In Israel, which is known worldwide as the “nation of start-ups”, a case that the authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer analyze in their work «start-up nation“: The Story of the Israeli Economic Miracle” (Warner Brooks, 2016), the symbiosis between the army and private companies is one of the factors that explain the rapid economic growth of a country that was born almost 75 years ago and is currently generating morestartupsthan other economic powers such as Japan, China, South Korea, Canada or the United Kingdom.“No matter who you meet on the street, they are operational and have military experience.”explains to this newspaper the President of the Israel Space Agency,Isaac Ben-Israel, Netanyahu’s top cybersecurity advisor. But the so-called “culturestartup» has a trap. “In reality, the success rate is no more than 4%. They are the so-called unicorns,” said the highly decorated reserve division general. “But they justify 96% of failures.”

CyberArk is one of those famous “unicorns” that Ben-Israel speaks of. Founded a little over 20 years ago in the United States by Israeli officials in the information and intelligence community, this private company, which is now one of the most important in the industry, enriches its ranks with profiles such as: Omer Grossman. This ancient JThe head of the IDF Cyber ​​Defense Operations Center, previously under the command of Mamram, the army’s central computer systems unit, decided to ditch his uniform and take the plunge into private enterprise as if he were “last slice of pizza” only two years ago. “I felt it was time,” he admits to LA RAZÓN, “especially for my family.” Outside the IDF, life is quieter, even if it’s in reserve.

Omer Grossman, director of global information at CyberArk
Omer Grossman, director of global information at CyberArkCyberarkCyberark

Grossman’s 25 years of top-level military experience is making a difference in the cybersecurity industry. Profiles like yours are raffled off in private companies, partly because they have them Access to the most modern technical systems and also because they are hardened in crisis scenarios. In this business, it’s a safe bet to turn to the IDF. But Grossman’s path is not the only possible one. others like Aviv Mussinger decide to take the plunge and with all the experience he gained in the army and later in the automotive industry, hello tech, start your own business. Mussinger, years before joining as an intelligence analyst in his compulsory service with the IDF the controversial NSO Group, developers of the spyware Pegasusfounded just a few months ago startupcodem.

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