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Netanyahu simulates cyberattack

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Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called on nations to collaborate to fight growing cybersecurity threats, which he said could cripple the most sensitive systems of nations and bring down airplanes and fighter jets. To underline the threat, the prime minister simulated a hacking attack in the course of his address.
by SHOSHANNA SOLOMON | Jun 21, 2018

“One of the greatest challenges facing humanity,” he said, speaking at a cybersecurity conference in Tel Aviv, “is securing our devices, our airplanes, and our networks.” To demonstrate the threat, Netanyahu faked a hacking attack on the conference by a country not far from Israel, with a voice and slide presentation that told the attendees that their bank accounts, private conversations, and information were being shared with the enemy.

This scenario, he said, “is not far-fetched”. States can do this, and much worse.

But, Netanyahu said, nations can defend themselves from the cybersecurity threat. “It is an ever-present race,” and the outcome is not guaranteed. “We need to run ahead and stay ahead.”

Israel, he said, was in a good place when it came to cybersecurity – and the world recognised this. The nation, which had cybersecurity exports of $3.8 billion (R51.7 billion) in 2017, gets about 20% of private global investment in cyber security. “We are punching 200 times above our weight here,” he said. “My goal was to make Israel one of the top five cyber powers. We have reached that and even further.”

There are 480 cybersecurity companies operating in Israel, with 50 international research and development centres in the sector. Israel is ranked among the top 10% in cyber academic research, and in 2017, the nation attracted about $815 million (R112 billion) in investment, Netanyahu told the gathering of about 8 000 attendees from 60 countries at the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv.

The Beersheba Cyber Security Complex set up in the south of the country would help boost dialogue between academia, the military, and industry, he said. This generated some risk, especially to the army, but it was worth the risk because “cybersecurity grows through co-operation,” Netanyahu said.

Because the digitised and connected world presented tremendous new opportunities and new wealth, there was no going back, he said.

“We cannot go back to a world of levers, pullies and couriers.” And since the world was going forward, it was “absolutely vulnerable”.

“Our airlines can be brought down. Our fighter planes can be brought down,” as can systems in all countries. “So, we have unbelievable opportunities”, but at the same time also “unbelievable challenges and we must confront them. There will be no silver bullet. It doesn’t exist”.

Netanyahu said that the national Computer Emergency Response Team in Beersheba managed to monitor events and stop “quite a bit” of the attacks.

“But, the only way we can address this enormous challenge to the enormous opportunity is to keep running ahead, faster and faster and faster. This is a supreme test for our civilisation. It is going to be tested not only by criminal organisations, but terrorists, and by other states. We have to combine forces, to protect the present and ensure the future.”

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