Netanyahu Warns of Cyber Risks That Can Down Fighter Jets

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during the Cyber Week conference at Tel Aviv University, Israel June 20, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during the Cyber Week conference at Tel Aviv University, Israel June 20, 2018Credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on governments worldwide on Wednesday to join forces to defend against cyber threats that he said could even bring down military and civilian aircraft.

Cybersecurity also represents an enormous business opportunity, Netanyahu told a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University, adding that Israel receives about 20 percent of global investment in the sector.

"We cannot go back to the world of levers, pulleys and couriers. Since we are going forward, we are absolutely vulnerable. Our airlines can be brought down, our fighter planes can be brought down," he said.

Netanyahu spoke days after Israel was stunned to learned that former Energy Minister Gonen Segev was allegedly spying for Iran. 

PM Netanyahu Addresses CyberWeek 2018 Cybersecurity Conference

In today’s cyber era, Segev's connections with and information about people in the Israeli defense, energy and foreign-policy arenas are worth a great deal more and have a much higher potential to harm Israeli national security, the experts say. Via malware, such information can be exploited in the Iranians’ huge databases for cyberattacks against defense companies and other strategic sites in Israel.

While Israel monitors attacks at its cybersecurity centre in the southern city of Beersheba, Netanyahu said there was "no silver bullet".

"This is a supreme test for our civilization. It's going to be tested not only by criminal organisations, by terrorists, but by other states. We have to combine forces," said Netanyahu.

As he spoke, lights flashed and another voice boomed out in the room in a simulation of a hacking attack, saying that the hackers were "based in a country not far from Israel" - an apparent reference to the country's arch-foe Iran.

The voice told attendees their bank accounts had been frozen and their information was being shared with their enemies.

Israeli cyber exports last year amounted to $3.8 billion, Netanyahu said, adding: "We are punching about 200 times above our weight here."

The Beersheba centre brings together military, academia and businesses, which is a risk with regard to Israel's military applications.

"But I'm willing to take on that risk because I think cybersecurity growth through cooperation and cybersecurity as a business is tremendous," he said.

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