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Barak Acknowledges Israel's Cyber Offensive

By & Karl Vick (Time)

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday acknowledged Israel's offensive cyberspace operations for the first time. Speaking during a conference at Tel Aviv University, Barak stressed that in cyber warfare, as opposed to conventional warfare, it is more important to invest in defense than offense, and admitted for the first time that Israel has been developing and working on both tactics.

"Our goal with cyber defense, which is the more important and difficult component, is to prevent damage," Barak said. "It is more than we can benefit from an offensive action, even though both aspects exist."

Barak's explicit statement that "both aspects exist" comes after the Israel Defense Forces' website announced its cybernetics operations. There it was written that the operations include a focus on "information collection, defense, and classified military operations," among others. "We are preparing to be at the frontline of the worldwide cyber battle, both in civil and security systems."

Late last month, Iran accused Israel of being behind the Flame virus that struck its computer systems. Every official that inspected the virus – including security companies, the UN Communications Agency and the Iranian security body – said Flame was the most sophisticated virus they had encountered, and from data available to them Flame appears to be the product of a state. In addition, they said the level of sophistication indicates that a great deal of work and knowledge was invested into the program.

"A single hacker can cause tremendous damage to the economic or national systems. The cyber can cause a butterfly effect," Barak warned. "The free world is under threat of Iranian terror, rebel states and organized crime, but the tools have not yet been developed for a systematic response, not on a national level nor on a level of global cooperation."

Eugene Kaspersky, the Russian cyber sleuth who last week revealed the most sophisticated virus yet targeting Iran, was greeted as a hero at the Tel Aviv University conference on digital security Wednesday.

"Maybe there are some people here who are not happy with work I was doing with Stuxnet and Flame," he told an audience of more than 1,000 at the university's annual International Conference on Cyber Security. (Stuxnet was the previous virus that hit Iran, targeting its nuclear program; Flame hit the petroleum industry.) Then the keynote speaker, clad in jeans and an untucked linen shirt, leaned forward and said in a stage whisper, "I'm really sorry." Waves of laughter and applause followed. "It's not personal," Kaspersky went on, drawing out the laughter, which had a quality of mutual congratulation. "It's my job…. So next time, be more careful."

But when the room quieted down, the guru got serious. Cyber-weapons, Kaspersky advised, "are a very very bad idea." Whatever advanced knowledge allowed engineers to fashion the malicious software targeted at Iran's nuclear program will, in short order, become known to other nations, he said, and next time could well be directed back at the originators — the very worry President Obama reportedly voiced in approving the digital espionage in a joint program with Israel. "I'm afraid that in the future there will be other countries in this game," Kaspersky said. "It's only software. Maybe `hacktivists' will become cyber-terrorists. And maybe the traditional terrorists will be in touch with the cyber-terrorists.

"My message is: Stop doing that before it's too late. The ideas are spreading too fast. There is a genie in a bottle."

68% of Arab-Israelis Prefer to Live in Israel


Some 80% of Arabs living in Israel blame Jews for the Nakba, but 60% of them are resigned to Israel as a state with a Jewish majority, the Index of Arab-Jewish Relations for 2011, conducted by Prof. Sami Samuha of the University of Haifa shows.

Despite the fact that most of the respondents accepted Israel as a majority Jewish state, 63% of Arabs polled believe that it was not fair. Seventy-three percent of Arab respondents said they believe that the government treated Arabs as second-class citizens undeserving of equality.

Moreover, 68.3% of Arabs polled said they preferred to live in Israel than in other countries. Slightly more than half (56.5%) accepted Israel as a Hebrew-speaking state, and 58% accepted Shabbat as the day of rest.

Asked whether the respondents preferred Israel as a land or as a national entity, Samuha said that the results were mixed: "On one hand there is a connection with the land and on the other hand there is the acknowledgement of convenience, freedom and stability in the State of Israel. In Israel there are a lot of benefits and a modern way of life, as well as economic and political stability. You can't compare the lives of Arabs in the Galilee to that of Arabs in Palestine, Lebanon, or Egypt. There is also the element that in Israel there is no concern of an Islamist takeover."

Samuha pointed to responses that showed that 71% of Israel Arabs felt that Israel was a good place to live, while 60% said they felt it was a home and a homeland. Samuha said that the results of the survey over time show that intelligence and common sense prevail over extremist positions, and added that the long-term results showed pragmatism and acceptance alongside political polarization.

However, extremism was not absent from the survey. Nineteen percent of Israeli Arabs denied Israel's right to exists, as opposed to 11% who expressed a similar view in 2003. Fifty-seven percent of Israeli Arabs said that they would support a referendum that defined Israel as a "Jewish, democratic state that promised full civil rights to Arabs," compared to the 70.9% who said they would support such a referendum in 2006. "Despite the chasm, there is agreement between the Jewish majority and the Arab majority about living together in the state of Israel, so there is still a base for a common society."

The survey comprised 1,400 respondents, half Jewish and half Arab. The survey results that indicated the best relations between Jews and Arabs were recorded in 1995, the year former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

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