In the modern age in which we live cyberterrorism is a big threat and one that is growing daily. Hundreds, if not thousands of government employees sit in small cubicles day in and day out saving their country from all-out war; a war that starts in the virtual world.
But there is one country which may be small in size and population but is one of the most threatened places in the world. The cybersecurity workers in this country are also leading the pack when it comes to online security; a job which has already saved countless lives…
In 1948 the Jewish people returned to their homeland following the Holocaust in Europe and the United Nations at the time, through the Balfour Declaration, announced Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel for the first time in thousands of years; however, not everyone was happy about that announcement.
Many indigenous Arabs who had been living in the British mandate territory called Palestine were upset about the Jews’ return to their homeland. The day after the State of Israel was announced, Israel was attacked by its neighbors as well as by the Palestinians who lived there. This small strip of holy land soon became a big bone of contention globally and that fact still persists today…
State Of War
Due to the ongoing conflict, both the Jews in Israel and the Arabs find themselves in a state of war. Having been attacked five times by surrounding Arab states since its creation, Israel faces daily threats on numerous fronts; one of those fronts is Cyberspace.
Israeli government employees work tirelessly on a 24-hour basis to ensure that the country and her secrets are kept that way. They monitor social media accounts of Israeli Jews, Arabs, and Palestinians in order to detect hate speech or incitement to violence. Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, noted that 200 cyber attacks have been thwarted in the past month alone, but this hasn’t come without plenty of controversy over civil liberties and human rights…
From Virtual To Real
Minister Erdan told reporters that Israel’s preemptive use of special algorithms and other cutting-edge technologies has actually prevented knife and shooting attacks on Jews by Palestinian terrorists, including their cousins in Israeli Arab society in recent years.
Lone Wolf Attacks
One of the main types of attacks prevented through cyber intelligence is that of lone wolf attacks. As Erdan explained, “The experience we now have, we can help other countries deal with this kind of terrorism,” he said, adding that this “can lead us to a much better result in fighting lone wolf terrorists.”
One senior Palestinian official, Hanan Ashwari, a woman who has been touting the Palestinian cause for decades, spoke about the other side of the coin. According to Ashwari, the fact that Israeli’s protect their lives by preemptively monitoring suspicious social media accounts is a step too far and is, in her words “horrific.”
“They (the Israelis) are trying to justify the various ways in which they violate the Palestinian people’s rights, including the right to due process and the right to privacy, using Facebook and using social media as a means of gleaning information to prove people’s guilt ahead of time,” she said. Although she failed to mention the thousands of terrorists who try and often succeed in attacking Israelis on a regular basis…
Then again, there’s no denying the fact that many Palestinians have suffered hardships as a result of being displaced due to wars following the creation of the State of Israel, and many, through frustration, take to their social media accounts to condemn Israel and to stir up hatred both domestically and internationally. A people without a state, the Palestinians want justice to be served and are prepared to use any means to achieve that goal; including cyberspace.
The numbers speak for themselves; and while some people may be upset that their social media accounts were violated, there is no question that savvy Israeli cybersecurity has prevented attacks and deaths. According to Israeli ministry figures, “serious attacks” dropped from 90 in 2016 to just 25 in 2017, meaning that the Israeli strategy is working on the ground…
Who’s To Blame?
While the Israelis blame the Palestinians for anti-Israel incitement on social media platforms like Facebook, the Palestinians are despondent about their desperate situation and want to see an end to it. As peace talks between the two sides fail again and again, everyone is left frustrated and without enough light at the end of the tunnel to suffice.
The Israelis are preventing terror attacks on a variety of different ways. They use various technologies to counter attacks, including facial recognition devices and specially adapted smart cameras which can even detect suspicious facial expressions on would-be terrorists. There is also a dedicated team, including psychologists, legal advisers, and experts, who spend their time scouring what Erdan called an “ocean of data” for hate-filled content…
Erdan spoke about the techniques employed by his staff, without giving any classified information away, “Every event can lead to a discussion. You have to look for the special words that might lead you to the conclusion that something is dangerous,” he said. “The algorithm leads you to suspect someone.”
Whether or not you think it is moral in terms of civil liberties to monitor people’s private social media accounts, there’s no question that it is highly effective. Erdan noted that 200 people who were monitored admitted that they were planning attacks on Israelis, some of which are inspired by ISIS…
Erdan added, “When you increase the number of people who are involved in monitoring the social networks, you more and more learn how to define the profiles you are looking for,” he said, noting that while his team’s work is effective, it is also very “complicated.”
Following The Lead
Israel aren’t the only ones to be monitoring the social media accounts of suspicious people, even if they are the busiest. Andrew Ferguson, a professor at the David A. Clark School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, said that a number of U.S. police departments have also started using these techniques saying, “You may be seeing the future in Israel.”
Reality on the Ground
Due to Israel’s unique situation, they have to stay on top of their game when it comes to cyber hatred. As Ferguson noted, “Israel is at the cutting edge of using this technology in ways that we haven’t seen in other countries, partly because other countries have been concerned about pushback from civil liberties groups.”
Minister Erdan is convinced that Israelis know-how in this field is something that the world community should embrace. He said that Israel fully intends to share her expertize with her allies, and he spoke about the matter at a conference held just two weeks ago.
When it comes to protecting citizens, most countries will go above and beyond to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. Other attendees at the conference included representatives from Belgium, Germany, Kenya, Singapore, Spain, and many other countries, all wanting to benefit from Israeli expertise.
A New World
Erdan concluded that “red lines” need to be properly defined when it comes to cyber terrorism, and that hopefully, a new reality will emerge which is devoid of hatred and malice, “To create a new world without any kind of rules, that is something that first it’s not fair, and second, it’s endangering the safety of people around the world,” he said.