US, Israel set up team to combat cybersecurity threat
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US, Israel set up team to combat cybersecurity threat

The world needs Iron Dome ingenuity as threats move from missiles to malware, US official Thomas Bossert says at Tel Aviv conference

Thomas Bossert, assistant to the US President Donald Trump for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism, speaks in Tel Aviv, June 26, 2017. (Courtesy)
Thomas Bossert, assistant to the US President Donald Trump for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism, speaks in Tel Aviv, June 26, 2017. (Courtesy)

Israel and the US are set to collaborate in cybersecurity, a senior White House official said at a conference in Tel Aviv Monday.

“I announce today the commencement of an Israeli US bilateral cyber working group,” Thomas Bossert, assistant to the US President Donald Trump for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism said at the Cyber Week 2017 conference in Tel Aviv Monday.

The group will strive to defend critical infrastructure against attackers and to track down perpetrators. It will be led by Rob Joyce, the US White House cybersecurity coordinator, and Israel’s Eviatar Matania, director general of the National Cyber Directorate. It will include US and Israeli representatives from various ministries and defense organizations including foreign affairs and justice, and the secret service.

The team will convene this week, Bossert said.

“The meetings this week will focus on a range of cyber issues — critical infrastructure, advanced R&D, international cooperation, and workforce,” Bossert said, adding that these will be the first steps in strengthening bilateral ties in cyber issues.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Cyber Week in Tel Aviv, June 26, 2017. (Courtesy/Chen Galili)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Cyber Week in Tel Aviv, June 26, 2017. (Courtesy/Chen Galili)

The agencies will be… “focused on finding and stopping cyber adversaries before they enter networks, before they reach critical infrastructure and identifying ways to hold bad actors accountable,” Bossert said. “We believe the agility Israel has in developing solutions will resolve in innovative cyber defenses that we can test here and take back to America.”

Bossert said that increased cyber defense and deterrence are critical today, in a world in which the cyber threat from nations is growing, and an international consensus needs to be built regarding what is “responsible state behavior.” International norms must be set out and implemented, he said. And those who do not comply with these norms should be punished.

“It is time to consider different approaches,” he said, and the US is seeking to set up bilateral agreements with other partners globally who hold the same values. “There should be consequences for destruction,” he said.

The cyber sphere “is one of the biggest strategic challenges since 9/11,” he said, “because while physical borders are important, cyberspace knows no boundaries.”

“Nations have the ability to steal sensitive information and data and destroy systems and the trend is heading in the wrong direction,” Bossert said. Destructive attacks are being executed by belligerent nations – North Korea attacked Sony and Iran attacked Saudi Arabia in cyber attacks – and “neither of theses countries have near the sophistication and resources of China and Russia.”

It was the kind of technology evident in the Iron Dome missile defense system, Bossert said, that the world needs as the threat moves from missiles to malware.

Bossert said he was at the conference to talk about cybersecurity, but he was also there to say that “President Trump understands that the United States cannot lessen our engagement in this region… and cannot lessen our support for Israel.”

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his objection to “appeasing Iran” and enabling its nuclear aspirations, he did so at “great professional risk and took political criticism for stating an unpopular truth,” Bossert said. “He was right, he was courageous, the American people agree with him and now he is a partner with President Trump and the Israeli people have a stronger and deeper relationship with the US.”

A Tamir missile fired from an Iron Dome missile defense battery during a trial in the United States in April 2016. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)
A Tamir missile fired from an Iron Dome missile defense battery during a trial in the United States in April 2016. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

At the conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israeli technology and its cybersecurity leadership are opening doors to the world, breaking down hostilities and the Arab boycott.

“Once it was a disadvantage to say you are from Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Today when you talk about cyber or advanced technologies, it is an advantage. It is advantage to say I am an Israeli company.”

“There used to be a thing called the Arab boycott; that’s dissipating, for many, many reasons: strategic, and the prominence of Israel in the technological field,” he said.

Israel’s National Cyber Defense Authortity helps its members, who are from government and business organizations, to communicate in a secure way with each other to “not only to respond to attacks but to prevent them,” he said.

Every month Israel experiences dozens of cyber attacks at a national level, and at “every given moment, including right now, there are probably three to five attacks on a national level that emanate from various sources,” he said.

Cooperation between nations is important, Netanyahu said, “because we are better together,” and Israel has become an “attractive target” for cybersecurity investment, garnering about 20 percent of global private cybersecurity investment in 2016.

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