Election hacking likely to hit Israel, MK Lapid warns

Yesh Atid leader calls for special task force to counter foreign intervention, says fake news may be even harder to protect against

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Chairman of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, April 3, 2017. (Flash90)
Chairman of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, April 3, 2017. (Flash90)

Sounding an urgent warning note, Yesh Atid party leader and Knesset member Yair Lapid on Tuesday predicted that the next Israeli elections would likely be hacked and called for the establishment of a task force to start preparing a defense against it.

Lapid is a former finance minister and journalist who heads the opposition centrist party.

“There is a big chance that in these elections there will be deep cyber interference that will affect the results,” Lapid said at the Cyber Week Conference in Tel Aviv. Such interference happened in the US and France and chances are it will happen in Israel as well, he said.

“This is the new world we live in,” he said, and elections in a democracy are an open invitation for interference, he said.

Lapid called on Israel to speedily set up a task force to prepare for this scenario.

“Like in other cyber matters, Israel must lead the world in the fight to defend democracy as well. We have the abilities,” he said.

The task force should include members of Israeli army’s elite intelligence 8200 unit and the nation’s secret services and be given funds and resources to prepare, he said. It should also be guided by and report to an objective body, he said, which, he proposed should be the president of Israel.

Lapid added that along with direct attacks on computer systems and perhaps on critical infrastructures, which would create panic in the days leading up to the elections, Israel should also prepare for a disinformation campaign of fake news. Disseminating fake news is easy to do and far less complicated technologically than a regular cyberattack, he noted. Instead of thousands of lines of code, all you need is one well-written, believable and well placed fake short story, he said.

Coping with what he called “political cyber” may be even harder than coping with technological cyber, he said, because of the difficulty in distinguishing between foreign intervention or fake news and a legitimate electoral campaign post.

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