Bennett: Israel to set up ‘global network shield’ against growing cyberthreat

PM calls on ‘like-minded’ nations to join network to detect, alert and respond to attacks in real time; Israel cybersecurity chief warns: ‘Cyber winter is here’

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

Israeli PM Naftali Bennett speaking at the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv on July 21, 2021 (Chen Galili, Tel Aviv University)
Israeli PM Naftali Bennett speaking at the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv on July 21, 2021 (Chen Galili, Tel Aviv University)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that Israel was setting up a “global network shield” within which partner-governments globally will collaborate in real time to identify cybersecurity attacks, raise the alert and work together to develop solutions.

It will be an “online, real-time global network defense,” Bennett said at the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv. “We invite all like-minded good countries to join forces.”

In the face of cyberthreats, the partnership will “alert, investigate, together develop a ‘vaccine’ and disperse the ‘vaccine’ to all countries in the network. United we stand, divided we fall,” he said.

The new network will operate similarly to the Israel National Cyber Directorate, which is in charge of national cyber defense. It works with the private sector and other government entities to help defend the nation from the growing threat of cyberattacks.

Cyberthreats constitute one of the top threats to security in Israel and the world. Terrorists and other bad actors realize that their best return on investment is via a cyberattack, Bennett said.

The head of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, Yigal Unna, who last year warned that “cyber winter is coming,” said at the conference on Wednesday: “Cyber winter is here.”

“Threats are coming from all actors,” he said, and cyberattacks are on the rise. “How cold this winter is going to be is something to be discovered, but yes, we are there,” he said.

One out of five businesses in Israel fell victim to cyberattacks in 2020, Unna said. Half of them were high-tech companies and almost 42% were large businesses. One in 30 businesses reported losses from cyberattacks in 2020, and “2021 looks even worse,” he said.

Ransomware attacks caused an average downtime of some 16 days, he said, and the average ransom paid in the US was $178,254.

Cooperation among nations is key to fight these attacks, he said, and the response needs to be fast, smart and stronger.

Unna said that during the recent round of fighting with Gaza, the Hamas terror group attempted cyberattacks against Israel. “We managed to behead their cyber chief and other cyber terrorists,” Unna said, in a “clear message” that Israel will not tolerate such attacks.

Israel today has cybersecurity cooperation with 90 countries, he said.

In the first half of the year, Israeli cybersecurity companies raised $3.4 billion in 50 deals and seven of them became unicorns, or private companies valued at over $1 billion, the National Cyber Directorate said earlier this month.

The money raised in the first six months of this year exceeds the sum raised by Israeli cybersecurity startups in the whole of last year, itself a record-breaking $2.9 billion, the directorate said. The half-year figure accounts for 41% of the total funds raised by cybersecurity firms worldwide, and is three times the amount raised in the same period a year earlier, the data shows.

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