Dr. Erel Margalit, founder and Chairman of the JVP venture capital fund, the cyber-incubator in Beersheva, and a pioneer of the Israeli cyber-security industry, opened the morning session of the CyberTech Conference in Tel Aviv today, warning that Iran’s cyber initiative is already operating in full force, and that if Israel’s civil infrastructure is not protected, we will soon see a number of casualties as a result of these cyber-attacks:
“The Iranian nuclear threat is a future threat, but the Iranian cyber threat is an immediate threat, and Israel’s civil infrastructure in Israel is exposed and vulnerable. Eleven Revolutionary Guard strike groups attack Israeli nuclear researchers and civilian infrastructure on a daily basis.”
“The lack of cooperation between governments and the private sector will have serious consequences in the future. Sensitive information regarding Israel has already been stolen in a cyber-attack on ThyssenKrupp. This obligates all of us to promote a regional cyber-alliance.”
According to Margalit, “While the world is trying to delay and prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Teheran has already become a cyber power, with attacks against Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia and others. In any confrontation with Hezbollah, Israel will have to contend with Iranian cyber-capabilities that we have not yet encountered in the cyber arena, especially in light of the lack of protection for civilian infrastructure in Israel. Over the past year, we have witnessed repeated attacks on major financial institutions in the US, on critical bodies such as the Bowman Dam in New York, the British Parliament and even the British Prime Minister’s Office. Just a month ago, Iran once again attacked energy installations of Saudi Aramco, and if it hadn’t been for covert protective measures, this attack could have ended in hundreds of direct casualties and hundreds of thousands of indirect ones. The main suspect in the case is Iran, via the long cyber-reach which it has developed.”
“In Europe, there are sixty-five civilian nuclear facilities, and cyber-attacks are aimed precisely at these facilities. Countries such as Iran want to lay their hands on the switch of sixty-five nuclear facilities in Europe,” said Margalit, who argued that a NATO-type organization should be established for cyberspace, because harm caused to a third country could cause direct damage to Israel and its security interests.
According to Margalit, the attacks on Saudi Arabia, the US and even here in Israel during the course of Operation Protective Edge are only a test case for the real battle. In the next campaign, Israel’s civilian infrastructure will be at the heart of the Iranian attack. That is why a regional alliance for the EuroMed area should be established, based on regional CERT centers to deal with cyber threats. It is a strategic regional interest, and according to Margalit, it is Israel that should lead such an alliance.
In our global world, other countries are exposed to cyber-attacks, which could indirectly harm Israel’s security interests. One example is the dubious deal in which Israel acquired ships and submarines from ThyssenKrupp. ThyssenKrupp is owned in part by Lebanese elements with strong ties to Iran.
In a cyber-attack a year ago, sensitive information was stolen from the ThyssenKrupp shipyard, where the future Israeli Corvettes and submarines were being built. That included, among other things, the specifications of the submarine and ships that Israel was set to purchase. The fact that a senior Lebanese player with strong ties to Iran holds shares in the shipyard poses a real threat, and Margalit claims that it is only a matter of time before the shipyard suffers another attack, and Iran benefits from such sensitive information. Such information in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would cause strategic damage to the security of Israel and its citizens.