Iran is a main cyber threat on the Middle East - Israel says

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Iran and its proxies are continuing to pose a main cyber threat on the Middle East according to the Director General of the Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD), Mr Yigal Unna.

Speaking at a Cyber Week conference at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel on Wednesday, Mr Unna said, "Israel is prepared for cyber threats; we have the capability to respond forcefully to cyber-attackers, and not necessarily on the same vector as the attack."

Mr Unna presented data according to which stated that the Iranians were among the five most active state actors in cyberspace.

"The Iranians are and have been continuously active for a long period of time deploying broad attacks, including attacks to gather intelligence, attacks to cause shifts in mentality, as well as attacks intended to cause harm and destruction to systems. Iran is one of the only countries to execute destructive attacks, primarily against Gulf states," Mr Unna said.


Cyber Week is a large annual international cybersecurity event, organised and hosted since 2010 at Tel Aviv University in Israel and brings leading experts from around the world in the fields of cybersecurity, government, intelligence, professionals, policymakers, entrepreneurs, investors and academics together to brainstorm on the future of technology and how to secure operations.

This year’s weeklong conference featured panels, workshops, summits, and seminars on topics such as how to offer cybersecurity in artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain (Distributed database existing on multiple computers at the same time), aviation, financial technologies (fintech), digital healthcare, the cloud, smart cities, cybercrime and more.

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This is because, according to experts, the wave of crime perpetrated by smart people in the cyberspace was gradually increasing and there was therefore the need for all stakeholders to brainstorm and exchange knowledge on how to secure the cyberspace.

Over 8000 attendees from 80 countries were at the conference which was hosted by the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC) in India, Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security, Tel Aviv University, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Cyber Directorate at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

Attack trends

Some of the newest and most widespread trends in attack surfaces in the cyberworld today which Mr Unna presented at the conference included an additional focus on attacks on the supply chain, targeted ransom attacks on large corporations, a substantial increase in revelations of vulnerabilities in various technological infrastructures, and a substantial decrease in the amount of time between the discovery of a vulnerability and its exploitation.

According to the data presented by Mr Unna at the conference, the Israeli cyber industry is on its way to breaking new records in raising capital this year.

In the past half-year alone, 40 Israeli cyber firms raised a total of US$850 million, compared to US$1.1 billion in the year 2018

He said in the past half-year Israeli cyber firms recorded seven exits totaling a sum of US$1.5 billion dollars.

Mr Unna presented at the conference for the first time the results of a new survey led by the National Cyber Directorate among companies in the private sector in Israel.

According to the survey it appears that 68 per cent of companies in the economy experienced at least one cyber attack or attempted cyber attack in the past year (of any kind) against their organizations.

63 per cent of those who reported cyber incidents also noted that no damage was incurred as a result.

The survey also indicated that 84 per cent of firms have a dedicated cyber-defense budget, and some 80 per cent stated that that the issue of cyber-defence rates highly on their order of priorities, particularly among companies in the fields of information and communications, as well as companies who operate internationally.

Additionally, 75 per cent of firms already have a cyber trustee.

Likewise, some 60 per cent of the organisations are accustomed to providing a cyber-defence update to their board of directors at least once a quarter.

The survey's findings also indicates that the primary reason for investment in cyber is the high level of awareness among management of the issue. High management awareness of cyber issues was observed with relatively high prevalence among companies operating internationally.

300 companies answered the survey, forming a representative sample of the private sector in Israel and all companies from the various industries. The survey was performed by the MIS polling firm and commissioned by the National Cyber Directorate.

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