Criticising Iran for cybersecurity attacks on Israel’s critical infrastructure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Iran attacks Israel on a daily basis. We monitor these attacks. We see these attacks and we foil these attacks all the time. Iran threatens us in many other ways. They have issued, in the last 24 hours, threats that say they’ll destroy us, they’ll target our cities with missiles. We’re not oblivious to these threats. They don’t impress us, because we know what our power is both in defence and in offence.”
Speaking at the 2019 annual Cybertech conference, Netanyahu warned that any country could face cyber attacks. “The important thing is that any country can be attacked today with cyber attacks and every country needs the combination of a national cyber defence effort and a robust cybersecurity industry. And I think Israel has that and has that in ways that are unmatched,” he added.
According to the Israel Cyber Directorate, private investments in Israel’s cybersecurity is over $1 billion. This has “allowed a small country like Israel to become a big country,” Netanyahu said. He said he believes that “cyber diplomacy” will be the next area of cooperation among big economies.
India is among the countries with which Israel has a cybersecurity agreement, according to the Cyber Directorate at Tel Aviv. Israel also boasts of having 20 per cent of global private investments in cybersecurity, second only to the United States. “Israel is one-tenth of one per cent of the world’s population and we are receiving 20 per cent of the global share in private cybersecurity investments. That’s 200 times our weight in the world,” Netanyahu said.
“What this revolution is doing — big data, AI and connectivity — is allowing small countries to be big countries. It depends on if you have the brains and the system to create conceptual products at an accelerated rate — conceptual products that are at the cutting edge and give you a competitive advantage. If you do this conceptual mousetrap, the world definitely beats a path to your door. There’s no question about it, it’s happening,” he added.
According to Israel’s cyber division, their share in global private investments in cybersecurity was only 10 per cent in 2014. It was only in 2015 that Netanyahu had announced the setting up of the National Cyber Defence Authority, which was converted into a National Cyber Defence Directorate last year by merging another government body called the Cyber Bureau, reporting directly to the PM.
During his address at the conference, the prime minister also drew a parallel with the time when there were a spate of airline hijacks all over the world and how Israel was among the first countries to counter those attacks. “A few decades ago, the world was plagued with airline hijacks, Israel built a hi-tech metallic door. It was amazingly effective, but then no country paid heed. After the 9/11 attacks, every single American aircraft had this metallic door,” the PM said, adding that the world was now being attacked in various different ways, which can’t be protected by mechanical doors, but by virtual ones.
“Our airlines can be attacked a hundred ways. They can be attacked by ground control interference, they can be attacked by the systems within the plane and the communications and many other things. It is, in many ways, the most vulnerable system that we have right now. But, as you know, everything today is vulnerable and everything is under attack,” he said.
Speaking about Fortune 500 companies, Netanyahu displayed a list of the world’s largest companies by their market capitalisation in 2007 and 2017, and pointed out that the top 10 companies in 2007 are no more there. They have been replaced by IT companies. “Here’s the old world (2017). That’s all of ten years ago. Here are the ten leading companies in the world. They include five energy companies… and one IT company. Now, shift forward ten years, which is nothing, it’s a blink of an eye. And you see this most amazing change. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven IT based companies. No energy left,” the PM added.
“All of these new companies have major research centres in Israel. Some of them are most advanced. It has happened because Israel leads the world in investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP. It happens because we have the highest percentage of R&D personnel per one thousand employees, by far. It happens because we have a defence industry that we use to leverage the civilian industry,” he said, citing the 2015 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development statistics that claimed the total business enterprise personnel per 100 employees in Israel is 28.3.
The correspondent was at Tel Aviv on the invitation of the Government of Israel