Israel is working toward creating a “digital equivalent of the Iron Dome” to protect its government, public and private institutions from the increasing intensity of cyberattacks, Eviatar Matania, director general of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate, said.

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has been used in recent years to intercept and destroy rockets launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. It has proven highly effective in protecting civilian populations from the rocket threat.

The defense shield Israel would like to install to protect its cyberspace “will not just be one system, but a combination of several systems that together will enable us to be in a much better place” vis-a-vis cyberattacks, Matania said Monday at a briefing with reporters at the CyberTech 2017 Conference in Tel Aviv. “In several years, I think we will be in a much different position, with all the systems working together.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2012 that Israel was developing a “digital Iron Dome” system to protect against daily cyberattacks, noting that it would take time.

Some of the systems are already in place, Matania said, like the newly installed Cyber Net, while others are still in the research and development phase, being worked on jointly by government organizations and private industry, he said.

Dr. Eviatar Matania (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Dr. Eviatar Matania (Courtesy)

The Cyber Net, which Israel is currently piloting, enables Israel’s National CERT (computer emergency response team), based in the southern city of Beersheba, to connect with the cyberdefense teams of both public and private organizations, from all sectors in the economy, to share information about attacks in a bid to avert others.

“One of the most important things in cybersecurity is the sharing of information,” Matania said. “This system combines all of the defenders.”

The Cyber Net is a first step toward the creation of a digital equivalent of the Iron Dome, he said.

Whereas governments is in charge of protecting the country’s borders against threats, and police monitor city streets, at the moment it is up to government institutions and public and private entities to protect themselves from cyberattacks, which are becoming more frequent and greater in intensity.

“You need something at a state level,” Matania said. “And this state level becomes the digital equivalent of the Iron Dome. We are currently developing how to do it,” he said.

At the end of last year, Yahoo suffered the world’s biggest hack to date, in which the company discovered a 3-year-old security breach that enabled a hacker to compromise more than 1 billion user accounts. In 2015 hackers shut down power in Ukraine. In February 2016 more than $80 million was stolen from Bangladesh’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and US intelligence services have blamed Russia for hacking attacks during the 2016 presidential election
campaign.

At any given moment a day, Israel suffers from tens of serious cyberattacks, Matania said. “The equation between attackers and defenders is not balanced,” he said. “It is much easier to attack.”

By developing the right systems, processes and structures, Israel and countries globally will be able to regain the balance and become less vulnerable, he said.

Israel is also formulating legislation that would enable the national CERT to work with organizations and managers at companies to help them monitor and mitigate attacks when these present a danger to the public or the nation, he said. This would be done to help “prevent attacks to spread. We are building legislation to do this,” he said.