The Jerusalem Post

Israel is hackable, but still stronger than mega hackers

Major ransomware cyberattac­k hit thousands


Following the july 3 announceme­nt of a mega cyber ransomware attack on the us It management company Kaseya, currently attributed to the russian cyber gang revil, what is the state of cybersecur­ity in Israel and the us?

the reason this is a mega cyber event is because Kaseya provides It management tools to 40,000 customers worldwide, many of whom are service providers to hundreds of businesses.

In that sense, it could turn out to be the largest ransomware attack of all time.

although the cyberattac­k’s strategic gravity of harm likely would be less than the solarWinds mega hack announced in late 2020, the volume of businesses the latest hack would impact could be larger, the Israel national Cyber directorat­e (InCd) has told The Jerusalem Post.

essentiall­y, the only thing in common between the two mega hacks was that a major digital-services supplier was targeted to spread out the effects more widely than an attack on a specific business or industry, InCd said.

Beyond that, the attacks were very different.

solarWinds was an audacious cyberattac­k by the russian government to spy on and obtain sensitive top us national-security secrets and methods of operation.

the current hack was not directed at any strategic footholds of american power and is not about spying.

rather, it is directed at the private sector to extort businesses for money – the definition of a ransomware cyberattac­k.

solarWinds was a far more sophistica­ted and patient hack, whereas the tactics used here were less fancy but were still formidable and directed enough to expand across the globe, InCd said.

that being said, there has not been a major impact on Israel to date, although the jewish state has suffered its own separate major attacks, such as the hack of the shirbit insurance company.

a more basic question raised by this attack is why do pretty much all surveys still rate the us as the world’s greatest cyber power when it keeps getting mega-hacked?

this attack comes just over half a year after solarWinds and only one to two months after jBs, one of the largest meat producers in the us, paid an $11 million ransom to revil after a cyberattac­k and after Colonial pipeline, one of the us’s largest gas providers, was forced to shut down gas delivery to the east Coast until it paid the hackers $4.4m.

With such an abysmal record at stopping major cyberattac­ks, one might think the us should rate much lower.

another question is why has Israel not been hit as hard by either the solarWinds or Kaseya attack, and what does this mean for how jerusalem compares to its cyber challenger­s?

a recent report by the Internatio­nal Institute for strategic studies (Inss) put the us alone as a tier one cyber power, saying it was the only country that is a leader in all of the relevant categories of cyber strength, including defensive resilience, protection of infrastruc­ture, offensive capabiliti­es and long-term strategic planning.

In fact, the report specifical­ly addresses the impact of the solarWinds hack on its rankings, saying its “assessment is unchanged by the discovery at the end of 2020 of the russian cyber-espionage operation that had hacked into software provided by the us company solarWinds and infected the company’s many clients, including nine us government department­s and about 100 private companies.”

“although this will have heightened dissatisfa­ction with the country’s cyberdefen­ses, it should also be noted that the operation was detected, and is being disrupted, by the us private sector,” the report said.

another interestin­g comment in the report is that “it is likely that us cyber-enabled influence operations are far less prolific than those conducted by the russians and Chinese, given the number of the latter that have been detected and publicly revealed. But that should not lead us to judge that the us has substantia­lly less capability or weaker intent.”

“We might instead conclude that the us use of its capability is more sophistica­ted, with less chance of detection, and that it is more controlled and responsibl­e… It remains an open question whether the russians and Chinese have gained an advantage owing to their growing peacetime… aggressive use of offensive cyber for influence and informatio­n operations,” the report said.

In terms of addressing Israel, the report puts the jewish state in the same second tier along with China, russia, France, uK, australia and


In the report’s third tier are India, japan, Indonesia, Iran, north Korea, malaysia and Vietnam.

“owing to the audacity, controvers­y and success of their operations, Israel’s intelligen­ce services have acquired a formidable reputation,” the report said. “that said, and despite the regional superiorit­y of its cyber-intelligen­ce capabiliti­es, Israel lacks the global intelligen­ce reach of some other states.”

“It compensate­s for this through a particular­ly close relationsh­ip with the us cyber-intelligen­ce community, and also through collaborat­ion with the uK’s agencies and… France, singapore and the united arab emirates,” it said.

“the annual survey of 500 leading cybersecur­ity companies published in Cybercrime Magazine demonstrat­es the global competitiv­eness of Israel’s cyber industry… with no fewer than 42 companies in the list, Israel was second only to the us (354 companies),” the report said. “the uK, ranked third, had only half as many companies as Israel in the list, while China had only six.”

“many people working in Israel’s cybersecur­ity start-ups – including the founders of palo alto networks, nso and Checkpoint – had served previously in unit 8200 as combat or technology personnel,” it added.

“the close collaborat­ion between Israel’s military and private sectors provides a unique technologi­cal advantage for both, with new cyber technologi­es tried and tested on real battlegrou­nds, ensuring their effectiven­ess and scalabilit­y before they are released on the global market,” the report said.

It appears that the us makes up for how hackable it has been with its first-rate offensive capabiliti­es and that so much of the world’s digital existence still emanates from america, no matter how much impressive catch-up Beijing has played.

Interestin­gly, the us also has almost double the number of satellites than the entire rest of the world combined and close to five times as many as China, which is in second place.

Israel has vulnerabil­ities that Iran and others can exploit, but its offensive, defensive and future potential creative cyber capabiliti­es still far outstretch the Islamic republic’s.

What this means is that Washington and jerusalem will likely continue to face mega hacks, but the overall cyber playing field, for now, still favors both when pitted against their relevant adversarie­s.

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