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The Israeli Army must be put in charge of operations during cyber-attack emergencies, and in order to do that the IDF must establish a new cyber-command.

Col. Naty Cohen
Col. Naty Cohen

This according to Col. Naty Cohen, one of the top officers in the IDF’s C4I division, as part of academic paper presented to the National Security College. Col. Cohen gave an address during the first part of the business continuity conference – IT technologies and communications, taking place today at the IAF Center, Herzliya, Israel.

According to Col. Cohen there are several organizations and agencies in charge of dealing with cyber defense, but during emergencies none of them were appointed as top decision makers and given responsibility for determining priorities. The threat is real, he added. Iran, for example, established a cyber command; special cyber-warfare units were revealed in China; Russia attacked Estonia, causing major economic damage; and there are additional examples.

IHLS – Israel Homeland Security

The solution, said Col. Cohen, is to establish a national cyber response command, which will direct the entire national cyber defense array. The parallel civilian agency must also be established, and the cooperation of all official government organizations is also required: Government ministries, General Security Service, Mossad, police (to handle crime related cyber-attacks) and others. The IDF has to be the one to coordinate between all these through the proposed cyber command, mainly due to the army’s special cyber capabilities.

Director of the Emergency Division at the Communications Ministry, Eitan Steiner, said that the main lesson the ministry learned from the recent storm is “no power – no communications”. Power supply is vital to the continuity of organizations, infrastructures and critical facilities. While communications infrastructure wasn’t damaged during the storm, end-point cellular network sites malfunctioned, exposed cables were destroyed, television broadcast was spotty and technical crews found it very difficult to reach trouble spots. Steiner concluded that the assumption is that a similar emergency will happen again, and the question is “when”, not “if”. Steiner added that cyber-attacks are an extremely serious threat, and Israel must prepare itself.

The keynote address in the BCP&IT conference was given by Avi Yariv from iHLS, who mentioned the website’s first birthday, and added that iHLS is the largest media website focusing on homeland security issues. So far around 1,000,000 unique visits to the site were recorded from Israel and 212 countries worldwide, and around 2,000 HLS-related articles were published.