Hackers Targeting Israel Often Experience 'Unexpected Mishaps', Says Israeli Security Chief

Head of Israel's Shin Ben security service also says groundbreaking technological advances have contributed greatly to reducing lone-wolf terror attacks in Israel

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman speaking at a cybersecurity conference in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2017.
Moti Milrod

The head of the Shin Bet security service says Israel is successfully fighting back against cyberterrorists. “Hackers around the world working to harm Israel often experience unexpected mishaps,” Nadav Argaman told a cybersecurity conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

Argaman told attendees at Cyber Week 2017 at Tel Aviv University: “Just as we aren’t satisfied with passive defense in the real world but find terrorists in their place – the same goes for cyberdefense. We study our adversary’s modus operandi and learn how to defeat them in a variety of ways.”

He added that in the past year, the Shin Bet has been working with its partners in the intelligence and defense communities to confront a variety of challenges in the cybersecurity field – from state-sponsored threats and terrorist organizations to individual hackers acting independently.

“Still, in light of the deceptive characteristics of cybersecurity, it would appropriate for us to remain modest and cautious concerning our ability to receive a hermetic picture of what is happening in this area,” Argaman said.

The Shin Bet head also revealed that Israel has identified and prevented over 2,000 potential lone-wolf attackers since the beginning of 2016 using technological and intelligence methods. He added that 400 of the would-be assailants were arrested.

“To successfully locate a lone-wolf attacker is an enormous challenge,” Argaman said. “The trailblazing technological improvements, along with knowing [the situation on] the ground and operational work, have contributed greatly to reducing the level of terrorism and Israel successfully dealing with the threat of such terrorists,” he added.

Intelligence agencies' activities related to the internet, particularly on the social networks, has sparked criticism over the protection of the privacy of the individual but also due to the fact that some of the people being investigated by security agencies are actually probed even prior to taking any active steps.

Speaking at the Herzliya Conference last week about the tension between the right to privacy and technology-based intelligence collection, the head of the Intelligence Corps of the Israel Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, said: "If a group is speaking on the Web about carrying out a terrorist attack and is beginning to acquire the means [to do so], we would want to live in a country that knows in advance and not after the fact."