Israel's cyber skills an asset and a threat
June 6th, 2012
02:16 PM ET

Israel's cyber skills an asset and a threat

By Michael Schwartz reporting from Jerusalem

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, at the second annual International Cyber Security Conference in Tel Aviv, said Wednesday that his country was engaged in a new battle frontier.

Barak, who commanded the Israel Defense Forces when the first specialized computer units were introduced into the army, described cyberspace as the fifth dimension of modern warfare after air, ground, sea and space.

"The whole field of computers and telecommunications has developed tremendously over the last few decades. Reality is overcoming every illusion. Even those of us who grew up in the technological fields did not imagine the pace of these developments."On the one hand, the computers and telecommunications developed opportunity in governing, diplomacy, military, commerce and trade.

On the other hand, the complexity of all the systems have caused points of weakness which are potentially places of vulnerability," he said, outlining three trends that the military needs to contend with:

• The difficulty in identifying the attacker and the source of the attack. Even a simple hacker can disguise an attack, the source of which can be hidden in servers around the world.

• The lack of definition between peace and hostility. The battle in cyberspace happens during periods when there is no open conflict.

• The dependence of the military on the civilian infrastructure when it goes to battle and the importance of the Internet in the civilian system.

Local and international attention at the conference seemed to be focused on a cyberattack on Iran's oil infrastructure a month and a half ago, though Barak did not refer to it in his address.

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab, the Internet security company that uncovered the Flame virus while investigating the attack on the Iranian oil industry, addressed the issue of "Threats in the Age of Cyber Warfare." In a news conference, he outlined his fear of the threat posed by what he calls cyberterror.

"You are a victim of the attack. You don't know who is behind the attack. You don't know what is the next target. You don't know where it was developed. It's not cyberwar, it's cyberterrorism, and I am afraid that it is just the beginning of the game. And very soon, many countries around the world will learn that."

His company cannot pinpoint the origin of Flame, but he detailed how much he thought it cost to develop, basing his figures on the number of people he was employing to decipher the project.

"There are 150 people allocated to this project. Plus extra people, engineers, testers, managers - I don't count product marketing that's less than $100 million. The Flame is less than $100 million," he said.

His conclusion was that the Flame attack had to be carried out by a country. When asked whether he felt his presence in Israel was part of the solution or the problem, he diplomatically sidestepped the question, answering, "Both."

According to Kaspersky, the unsettling feature of Flame is that it had already run for five years.

"The cyberweapon has a limited lifetime. So it's quite logical that there are new cyberweapons designed. Maybe there are computers which have been infected we don't know (about), and I don't know how many sources there are providing these cyberweapons; at least two, maybe more. We don't know that."

This could probably explain why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considers computer terrorism one of the four biggest threats facing Israel. He set up an authority to centralize Israel's cyberspace battle in his office, a place it shares with the Mossad and Shin Bet internal security services.

Filed under: Cybersecurity • Flame • Israel
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Great India

    Coding for this project was done in India. We all know Israelis can't code.

    June 18, 2012 at 11:43 am | Reply
  2. Steve

    Canadian expat working in Tehran here. Maybe when they were first released, for a short time, they caused issues, but right now Flame and Stuxnet are having zero affect on things. And Iran is obviously tightening up their information security systems in light of all these terrorist virus attacks. Keep trying though. It's entertaining, =)

    June 8, 2012 at 12:56 am | Reply
  3. Peikovianyi

    If Palestine had not degenerated into a sharia apartheid regime, administered by the Grand Mufti Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini, before and after his collaboration with Nazi Germany, the Jews of Palestine would not have rebelled against him, forming self-protection zones now known as Israel.

    June 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply
  4. joep199

    I wonder how much the lives of the majority of the Palestinians would improve if they laid down their arms, and worked with Israel to improve their economy? Combining Israeli technological and financial know how with a large work force might bring peace and stability to that whole region.

    June 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Reply

      But that cannot happen until, as it is said often "The Palestinians love their children more than they hate Israel". That's just not going to happen while each new generation is imbedded with hatred through textbooks from kindergarten up.
      It also will not happen so long as they see martyrdom and death as more preferable to having a world where Israel exists.
      The reason the cold war did not escalate to a physical war, was because the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. each feared mass death – this is something that the Muslim extremists do not fear; hence, the deterrent factor is not there. And it's not just the extremists. They could not do anything without the much broader base of financiers, aiders and abettors.

      June 7, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      joep199... The question is if the Palestinians (and Arabs in general) WANT to improve their lives and I sincerely do not think that this is the case. It's all a matter of priorities and as long as destruction of the Jewish state and killing of Jews is higher on their list of priorities than peace and quality of life for most Arabs there will be no change. It's unfortunate but one side can initiate and maintain a war but BOTH sides are necessary for peace. As long as the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular are willing the war to continue it will continue and more Palestinians will be killed. When the number of dead Palestinians will satisfy those still alive they will ask for peace and THEN peace will become possible.

      June 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Reply
    • genebrady

      First of all,everything Israel has was given to them by the USA....EVERYTHING. The USA gies more to Israel than all other nations combined. Second, the Palestinian Economic "condition" is at the hands of Israel. Israel is a welfare state and always was.

      June 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply
    • glennrobert

      Israel is still taking the West Bank one house at a time. The time to settle these issues was about 10 years ago. The political climate around Israel is totally different now than it was two years ago and not for the better. The serious problem will how Egypt reacts to it's new government.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:34 am | Reply
  5. krm1007 ©™

    isreal indian next powers ....

    June 7, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
  6. SayanIndia

    Accept the “unpleasant” truth.

    Saudi Arab’s survivability in the Middle East depends upon Israel.


    June 7, 2012 at 8:13 am | Reply
  7. SayanIndia

    Israel’s cyber skills are outstanding.

    Whether they are asset or threat depends upon the side one represents ;).


    June 7, 2012 at 6:22 am | Reply
  8. Really????

    You all want FACTS; and you wont like this, cause you all have it out for Isreal but here it is.
    NO ONE KILLS MORE ARABS, THEN ARABS. Get it! That is the real fact, and Isreal and the Jews have nothing to most of it. That is a historical fact! Isreal's violations in regards to spying pale and are for the most part minor when compared to the US government and the persons from with in it that leak information to many, many, many other countries. Truth, is the zionists have brains and the use them. Take at look at the world surrounding them, it was in bad shape before they came and has remained so. History and Facts. The biased haters here will ignore this I am sure.

    June 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Reply
    • Spartan


      Israel had repeatedly killed civillians, with illegal munitions, in breach of ceasefires.

      You fail dummy....

      June 7, 2012 at 2:43 am | Reply
      • Thyinker23

        Civilians are being killed in every war. Espeially when they'rebeing used as human shields. As long as the Palestinians and other Arabs are willing thewar to continue it means that they're happy with the results.

        June 7, 2012 at 6:31 am |
      • Thyinker23

        Spartan... I'm still waiting for you to PROVE that you're NOT a thief and a child molester... According to your claims yesterday it was up to you to prove that I was wrong saying that.

        June 7, 2012 at 6:34 am |

        I ant help but notice that even YOU dont say that the killing of civilians was purposeful. Thus, your attempt to equate Israel with the acts of Arabs' PURPOSEFUL targeting of civilians, falls flat.

        June 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
      • glennrobert

        We teach the Arabs and Persians how to conduct syber war? Not smart. They are fast learners and all systems are vulnerable! We teach them how to make cheap drones and how many does Hisbola have now? Cruise missiles in Iran by the thousands and beautiful targets a hundred miles away in Saudi Arabia. Go ahead and bomb them. Oil will start at $300.00 a barrel!

        June 12, 2012 at 2:44 am |
  9. The Obama poll boosters come in the form of leaks .

    well if israel is the big cyber threat , what the heck is many here doing calling israel the bad guy , arn't they scared of israel messing with their computers ?

    June 6, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Reply
  10. FactHurts

    Israel has obtained all Microsoft window and other sensitives details, which only Microsft will know about it illegaly. They also obtained all other trade secrets from the US and other european companies branches in Isarel. They are using thee information wrongly to sabatize world. Ofcourse US has shared many valuable secretes and trades such as telcommunication and others. This is totally violation of international Law and specially UN resolutions. But, who listen to it and who follow it up? UN is just instrument for some countries to push their agenda.

    June 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Reply
    • Spartan

      That's right on the money.

      June 6, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Why don't you SHOW SOME FACTS to support your accusations? THEN people will start listening to you... It seems that in your case i's not the facts that hurt but ABSENCE OF FACTS.

      June 6, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
      • Spartan

        Na, prove him wrong.

        Back up YOUR accusations....

        June 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
      • Spartan

        Lawrence (Larry) Franklin The former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst with expertise in Iranian policy issues who worked in the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and reported directly to Feith's deputy, William Luti, was sentenced January 20, 2006, "to more than 12 years in prison for giving classified information to an Israeli diplomat" and members of the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

        Franklin will "remain free while the government continues with the wider case" and his "prison time could be sharply reduced in return for his help in prosecuting" former AIPAC members Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, [who] are scheduled to go on trial in April [2006]. Franklin admitted that he met periodically with Rosen and Weissman between 2002 and 2004 and discussed classified information, including information about potential attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. Rosen and Weissman would later share what they learned with reporters and Israeli officials." (source:

        June 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Spartan... In thworld of civilized adults where Ilive it's up to the accuser to PROVE that the accused is guilty. Not the other way around. "FuctsHurt" accused Israel in illegally stealing intellectual property from Microsoft and I've asked him to support these accusations. Which of MY accusations do you want me to support?

        June 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
      • Spartan

        If your saying that he is mistaken, prove it.

        June 6, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Spartan... I'm saying that IT IS UP TO THE ACCUSER TO PROVE THAT THE ACCUSED IS GUILTY. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. As an example of this principle you may use the following: I'm saying that Spartan is a thief and a child molester. Now (at least according to YOUR logic) Spartan should PROVE that this is not the case.

        Is it clear enough?

        June 6, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
      • glennrobert

        and where are your facts?

        June 12, 2012 at 2:47 am |

      Me thinx you have it backward "fact".
      With the exception of the U.S., ISRAEL has more high tech companies than any other nation on the planet. MORE Nasdaq companies, etc.
      I'm pretty sure that companies steal from ISRAEL, not the other way around.

      June 7, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  11. Thinker23

    The easiest way to "stop Zionist aggression", etc. Is to STOP TRYING TO DESTROY the Jewish State. After all, Israel NEVER attacked anyone without being attacked first. It did not declare that other state or states "do not have the right" to exist. Israel did not claim that the Arabs "stole Jewish land" and should be expelled or killed. All Israel asked was to LIVE IN PEACE. It's unfortunate but as long as the enemies of the Jewish state are willing the war to continue they will get what they ask for. In all five dimensions.

    June 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
    • Spartan

      Not true.

      Israel has violated ceasefires many times. Israel has invaded Gaza 27 times.

      Israel uses white phosphorus on school children.....

      June 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Reply
      • Thinker23

        Can you SHOW at least one of those "many" cases Israel violated cease fire? Be my guest...

        June 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
      • Spartan

        Silly child, sit down

        Class has begun.

        June 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
      • Brian32

        There hundreds of articles on so many atrocities that Israel has committed all over the world. Please don't be so blind and ignorant to simply take what you see on TV or in the Newspaper as being truthful always and do some research of your own.

        June 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
      • Paul

        and Palestinians bomb pizza parlors, decapitate babies, and use their own people as human shields.

        June 6, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
      • shrinkDave

        Dear Mr. Spartan. Here is the rule: whoever is strongest in the Middle East will rule Jerusalem. Israel is strongest. Want Israel, Spartan? Come and get it.

        June 6, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Spartan... Did you actually READ the article you were so kind to give the link to? Here is what it says"

      "Israel won't accept "a cease-fire in which Hezbollah can use that cease-fire just as a timeout to regroup and rearm and prepare for the next round," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

      "Israel would not have to do these sort of operations if the international forces and the Lebanese forces were following through on their commitment ... preventing these arms shipments for Hezbollah."

      In Washington, a White House spokeswoman said the Bush administration took "note" of Israel's statement.

      "We note that the prevention of the resupply of weapons to Hezbollah by Iran and Syria is a key provision of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701," said Jeannie Mamo."

      You see, it was Hezbollah who violated the terms of the cease fire by ILLEGALLY bringing weapons from Iran and Syria. Want another try?

      June 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  12. Tex


    We can't afford to support the rabid dog of the Levant.

    June 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Reply
    • tough

      Agreed, Israel has committed crimes against civilians on numerous occasions.

      June 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Reply
      • GENE24

        What can we do to loosen the zionist strangle hold?

        We can't let Israel manipulate our country.

        June 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Paul

      You mean the rabid dog that has more Nobel Prize winners per capita than any other country? The rabid dog that is a world leader in technology, science, and medicine?

      June 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Reply
      • MK

        Yes, exactly. That nasty dog.

        June 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • shrinkDave

      You can't afford to support yourself.

      June 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply
      • Thinker23

        Who are those "you" that can not support themselves? The Palestinians? The Egyptians? Maybe, the Lebanese?

        June 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Can the Iraqis afford to support themselves? How about the people of Afghanistan? Can Pakistan afford to suport itself, "shrink"?

        June 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm |

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