Invoking Operation Entebbe, Netanyahu Says Iran Conducts Daily Cyberattacks Against Israel

Plane hijacking in the 1970s led to the development of Israel's 'unmatched' cybersecurity industry, prime minister tells Tel Aviv conference

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2018.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, January 29, 2018.Credit: AFP
Refaella Goichman
Refaella Goichman

Iran carries out daily cyberattacks against Israel, all of which are monitored and "dealt with", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said "we see these attacks and we foil these attacks all the time."

The Israeli prime minister also said all countries are under constant attack, claiming "every country needs the combination of a national cyber defense effort and a robust cybersecurity industry. And I think Israel has that and has that in ways that are in many ways unmatched."

Explaining the way in which the local cybersecurity industry grew, Netanyahu said plane hijackings, which were common some decades ago, led Israel to invest in security and develop methods and tools to handle the threat. Israel, Netanyahu added, had become one of the very few countries that were able to foil such attacks, even overseas.

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Netanyahu cited the 1976 Operation Entebbe to rescue the passengers and crew of an Air France jet hijacked to Uganda, in which his brother was killed, and the 1972 Sabena hijacking, where he personally participated in the raid to release hostages in at Israel's Lod Airport, later renamed Ben-Gurion International. These attacks led to the growth of the Israeli high tech industry, which grew out of the investment made in finding solutions to address external threats, he said. 

These developments then led to a growing global interest in Israel's cybersecurity industry, which has brought leading international companies to invest in the country. Netanyahu took pride in the fact that the world's 10 biggest technology firms, including Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google and Microsoft, have R&D centers in Israel.

He added that Israel is making large investments in the industry and encourages the establishment of hubs, the largest of which is in the southern city of Be’er Sheva, along with integrating capabilities developed by the Israeli military and academic institutions.

File photo: Crowd lifting squadron leader of Operation Entebbe rescue planes on their return to Israel, July 4, 1976.Credit: David Rubinger/Corbis via Getty Images

The Israeli cybersecurity industry exported $5 billion worth of products in 2018 and investment in the industry rose by 22% last year to reach $1 billion, invested in over 500 Israeli firms, said Netanyahu, adding that Israel is only second in cybersecurity investment to the United States.

"The development of the Israeli cybersecurity industry is based on a combination of three areas: Connectivity, big data and artificial intelligence," Netanyahu said. In addition to investments, he added, "We enable the graduates of special IDF units to develop the industry and found startups in the field. We are addressing the obstacles by reducing regulation and lowering taxes, with the goal of being one of the three largest industries in the world."

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