Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel
Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel Israel News photo

According to Major Gen. (Res.) Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel of the Tel Aviv University, every day hundreds of cyber attacks are launched on Israel and the number may increase to thousands in an emergency.

Prof. Ben-Israel, who spoke Thursday at the fifth annual Latrun Conference of Land Warfare organized by the Zvi Meitar Institute for Land Warfare Studies and the Israeli Armored Corps Association, said that “national policies need to be formulated that would provide a response to threats of cyber terrorism against Israel. This is a real threat and not a virtual one.”

Prof. Ben-Israel recently led a team that submitted recommendations to the Israeli government on how to prepare for the threat of cyber attacks. In his talk at the conference he listed the recommendations which include, among others, appointing a national consultant on cyber threats, establishing national headquarters for formulating a policy and monitoring its implementation, and establishing research centers in academia while increasing cooperation between the government, the academia and the industry.

Following the recommendations, the government recently decided to appoint a national advisor who will be reporting directly to the prime minister. The advisor will be given special budgets of 2.5 billion shekels for the next five years, and some of the funds will come from the business sector, especially from global companies that operate development centers in Israel and want to be involved in the prevention of cyber threats. The balance of the budget will come from various government and public agencies.

Prof. Ben-Israel said that while the public and government sectors, including national infrastructure facilities, are largely protected from cyber attacks, the greatest vulnerability is in the business sector and particularly in the banking and finance sector, where there is also difficulty to impose behavioral and safeguarding rules.

The concerns he raised are tangible: on Thursday, for example, it was reported that a hacker or hackers, likely from Iran, fabricated certificates for several agencies, including Israel’s intelligence service, the Mossad.

Israeli officials declined to comment on the report or its potential ramifications, but information security experts say the certificate - if obtained - would have almost certainly been for Mossad’s public website and not sensitive servers used for communications and data storage.

Even if the experts are correct and it is simply the Mossad’s website which would be endangered, cyber warfare is nevertheless always a concern. Earlier this week, amid the current diplomatic impasse between Ankara and Jerusalem, Turkish hackers hijacked some 350 Israeli websites.

Israeli IT analysts said the hijacking is likely to be, in fact, a “test-run” ahead of a major attack on Israeli domains.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)