Israeli cybersecurity firms have continued to have a leg up over U.S. interests since revelations by former U.S. National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the head of Israeli Cyber-Spec told Al-Monitor, in an article published on Monday.
“[Israel] has a particular advantage called the ‘Snowden Effect,’” said former senior Mossad official Haim Tomer. “What Edward Snowden revealed was that American intelligence agencies used the protocols of the leading American cyber firms to eavesdrop.”
“This was a major blow to the attractiveness of American cybersecurity providers. Both Europe and Israel are benefiting from that,” said Tomer.
Israeli cyber technology accounted for 10 percent of global sales in the field, standing at about $60 billion, according to Israeli economic paper The Marker.
Tomer’s comments came as part of a larger report on Israel’s consolidation of its cybersecurity programs, which extend not only through the military, but in intelligence and government operations as well.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office, for example, established a cyber office in 2012. While the Israel Defense Force’s elite Unit 8200 maintains an edge on military cybersecurity, both Israel’s major intelligence agencies – domestic Shin Bet and international Mossad – have their own departments as well.
A new, comprehensive cyber branch may soon envelop them all. A senior military official speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said the decision to coalesce cybersecurity could be the IDF chief of staff’s “most important decision.”
“It is a decision of historic proportions, underscoring how central cyberspace has become, not only in the wars of the future, but with what is happening now, too,” said the source.
Tomer said the wars of the future would be fought on the cyber-battleground, where attackers could paralyze hospital and government services, creating “bedlam” from within.
“Imagine penetrating the computerized system of some country and attacking its banking system. That can be used, for example, to prevent all civil servants from receiving their salaries. That is a strategic attack. It creates bedlam and causes enormous damage,” he said.
Several cyberattacks have been attributed to state-sponsored Israeli hackers, the most recent being reports that Israel may have hacked hotels in Europe where negotiators were working to resolve Iran’s contentious nuclear program. Israel denied the claims.
Tomer said Israel was not in the same league as the U.S., China or Russia when it comes to “offensive” cyberattacks. “But when it comes to thinking up defensive solutions, we’ve been on top of the game for a long time.”