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Increasing cyber threats worldwide have been posing a menace to numerous sectors. It seems the global perplexion knowns no bounds when it comes to handling this so called “silent adversary”, capable of paralyzing critical systems and sensitive infrastructure everywhere.

Various national military forces have recently established dedicated units tasked with rising to the cyber challenge. In addition, the private sector is also trying to get ahead of the curve. Nevertheless, the latter’s efforts seem to be sluggish and patchy.

Against this background of repeated cyber threats on both military and civilian online systems, in particular those of Israel, late April will see the Defensive Cyberspace Operations & Intelligence Conference, or DCOI, take place in Washington D.C. the event, jointly held by Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and major US institutions. The conference will be attended by senior Israeli and American commentators and researchers as well as private sector officials from both countries’ security establishments and high tech sectors.

“The conference’s primary target is to expand cyber cooperation between Israel and the US, in both military and civilian aspects,” explains Gabi Siboni, Director of the Cyber Security Program at INSS Dr. Col. (res.), in an interview to i-HLS. “Naturally, when US firms are doing business, finding themselves having to choose from a selection of cyber security providers, they tend to place greater trust in fellow US firms. These are particularly sensitive security services. We would like to assist Israeli companies to operate in the United States, including to garner business at the Federal level. We are addressing this issue of trust by using the conference to forge relations and build connections. The event will enable Israelis and Americans to get better acquainted in both formal and informal frameworks.”

The conference’s first day will be dedicated to panels focusing on various issues, as well as an exhibition at the Ronald Reagan building and the International Trade Center. The second day will feature workshops, displays and seminars at George Washington University.
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“The US is a cyber hub, complete with numerous opportunities and savvy. For an Israeli company, cornering this market would mean success in other major markets as well,” Explains Siboni. He further added that “this is why we are placing great effort into meetups between Israeli and US companies, where they will focus on business development and cooperation. There is no reason why an American bank shouldn’t use an Israeli security system.”

Apart from promoting private sector collaborations, Siboni would also like to harness the conference for discussions into broader policy issues. According to him, “the most important thing right now is to establish an integrative security strategy.” He further elaborated, saying that “in my opinion, it is an error to conceptualize cyber as a separate venue unto itself, calling for a different set of references. Rather, cyber should be taken as part of the comprehensive array of threats, along with physical locations.”

When asked whether regulation could constitute a solution for cyber threats, Siboni said the answer to that is no. “You need to gather information from any possible source, both physical and cyber, and use the data to create systems which learn all the time and issue alerts concerning the relations between physical space and cyberspace. For example, a particular bank could be managing its control over employees’ access by way of physical support. This control may or may not be linked to a computerized access control. If an employee fails to show up for work, yet his or her computer is still on, this should raid a red flag.”

Siboni finds it troubling that there is currently no responsibility and no entity is accountable to this kind of situation. “Many organizations do not share the information concerning irregularities, even when millions of files get stolen. That’s what happened when Snowden stole files in the dead of night, and no one paid any attention,” he notes. This was a major diversion from normal use patterns, but no one sounded the alarm, despite the obvious interest to do so. It is high time those agencies begin to answer for this sort of thing.”