“Good Hackers are Everywhere”
Israelis are lining up to get government-issued gas masks and stocking up on batteries and water just in case an American attack on Syria causes Syria or its ally Hizbullah to launch a strike on Israel.
In one gas mask distribution center in Jerusalem, employees closed early, saying the pushing and long lines had gotten out of hand.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israeli citizens that the level of alert has not been raised and normal life should continue. At the same time, the army called up a few hundred reserve troops and said it would move two Iron Dome missile batteries to northern Israel.
Beyond the conventional battlefield, Israeli analysts say the cyber-battlefield is becoming increasingly important. This week, a group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army hacked into the New York Times website and managed to take the site off-line for several hours. The Times said the Syrian Electronic Army is a group of hackers who support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and they had several times hacked into major media outlets.
Israeli firms are in the forefront of cyber-security. Israel’s Unit 8200, the army’s surveillance and intelligence unit, is one of Israel’s most competitive and creative units. Israel has long known that the future battlefield will not be conventional, but robotic.
In Israel today there are hundreds of companies dealing with cyber warfare. Ron Porat, the co-founder of a company called Hacktics, which makes anti-hacking technology, says the secret to fighting cyber warfare is finding good hackers.
“There are good hackers everywhere – in Syria, in Iran, in Korea, and in China,” he told The Media Line. “They can hurt us as much as we can hurt anybody we want to. You have to fight fire with fire, and use the same techniques that a hacker uses.”
Israel, along with the US, has been credited with the stuxnet, the computer worm that targeted Iran’s nuclear program. At a recent conference on cyber security, Netanyahu said there has been an increase in attempted cyber attacks by Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas on essential systems in Israel, including Israel’s water system, electric system, trains and banks.
“The attacks will increase in intensity and in quantity,” Netanyahu said. “Cyber warfare is an integral part of today’s battlefield. This is not the warfare of our future, this is the warfare of the here and now.”
An Israeli army spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Media Line there are hundreds of attempted cyber attacks on Israel each day. He said that number is expected to increase if the US hits Syria in the next few days or weeks.
Porat of Hacktics, which specializes in discovering and repairing security breaches like the one that hit the New York Times, says that almost everyone, whether they know it or not, is under cyber attack.
“Everyone needs to take special precautions all the time,” he said. “Even if you’re not a direct target, you’re an indirect target to someone trying to do something to someone else.”
His company, which specializes in hacking into other companies to highlight potential security weak points, specializes in artificial intelligence to discover malware. It has a program called Seeker that identifies security break-ins and even documents them on video.
Even before the latest crisis surrounding Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, Israel had begun putting more of its emphasis on cyber warfare. A new plan unveiled in July said that Israel planned to give up hundreds of tanks, dozens of fighter jets, and thousands of career army staff. At the same time, Israel is pouring large amounts of money and effort into cyber warfare, both fighting it and executing it.
In fact, Israel recently defined cyber warfare as a fifth realm of warfare alongside land, sea, air and space. The new command brings together personnel from Intelligence and Teleprocessing to ward off cyber attacks.