Israel has the world’s second-biggest cybersecurity cluster, with 12% of the 500 largest global cybersecurity firms, trailing only the San Francisco metropolitan area’s 32 percent. How did Israel succeed despite being one of the world’s tiniest countries?
A thriving innovation ecosystem includes dozens of significant corporations, 470 active cybersecurity start-ups, the highest venture capital per capita, and a large skill pool. You’ll be stunned to know that Israel’s civilian cybersecurity exports in 2014 were three times larger than the objective established by the United Kingdom for 2016. That was indeed a big achievement for such a small country.
Because the average Israeli start-up is acquired by an American corporation or goes public on the Nasdaq, Israeli-made innovation is becoming increasingly prominent. Since 2014, Google and Microsoft have been the most effective corporate buyers of Israeli firms, acquiring 10 and eight businesses respectively.
In terms of hardware, Apple, Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Nvidia all design their processors in Israel, and Google and Amazon do as well. For decades, Intel has been designing CPUs and other semiconductors in Israel. Israel’s technology sector specializes in cutting-edge revolutionary research and development for the global digital economy. Almost every multinational firm has an R&D facility in Israel.
The second largest Apple R&D center in the world is in Herzliya, Israel 🇮🇱. It was set up by Israeli Arab Johny Srouji, who is now Apple's SVP of Hardware reporting to the CEO. He was educated at Israel's "MIT" – Technion University. pic.twitter.com/OhXHhQ9ROX
— Avi Kaner ابراهيم אבי (@AviKaner) December 30, 2021
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) September 21, 2012
Intelligence Operations by Mossad
The renowned International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) rates Israel in Tier Two, alongside China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France, as states having world-leading strengths in several of the seven areas. Israel excels in civilian cybersecurity, core cyber-intelligence capability, and the creation and application of sophisticated offensive cyber capability.
When it comes to intelligence operations, Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad is the undisputed king of the world. Headquartered in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Mossad was founded on 13th December 1949. Being the most dangerous and dominant intelligence agency, Mossad conducts numerous operations that include cyber operations as well to protect Israel from its enemies.
To confront Iran’s multidimensional danger and hinder its nuclear development, Israel has conducted cyber-effects campaigns with the cooperation of Mossad. Israel bet on powerful precision-targeted malware to speed up and slow down rotors turning thousands of centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear complex fifteen years ago. Stuxnet infiltrated Iranian centrifuges and produced seemingly random mechanical failures, interrupting uranium enrichment and fostering corrosive insecurity within the Ayatollah’s leadership. This is still the most daring and effective cyber-effects campaign yet.
A cyber attack damaged operations in a key Iranian port in 2020, potentially as a fast reprisal for Iran’s attempt to sabotage rural water supplies in Israel. Given the frequency and precision with which Israel has launched airstrikes against numerous Iranian targets in the Middle East.
עשינו לא מעט מבצעים מסובכים במקומות רחוקים. לא היה פשוט. אבל שום דבר לא הכין אותנו ליום שבו המשימה שלנו תהיה לגייס אוכלוסייה מבריקה בפחות ממאתיים שמונים תווים.https://t.co/NF2pTpX0S9
— המוסד למודיעין ולתפקידים מיוחדים – קריירה (@mossad_career) June 4, 2020
How did Israel achieve it?
Israel established the national Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) framework 17 years ago, with the state taking a substantial percentage of the “shared responsibility.” After the discovery of Stuxnet in 2010 catapulted cybersecurity to the top of the global policy agenda, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established a task force to develop a national cyber strategy.
In order to go beyond CIP, the government established a new civilian, governmental cybersecurity organization called the Israeli National Cyber Directorate (INCD). It does not have law enforcement or intelligence mission, unlike other cybersecurity agencies. This purposeful system is designed to alleviate the conflicts between freedoms and security, which has fueled the defense establishment’s resentment.
Snowden’s 2013 leaks revealed a slew of global surveillance programs, bolstering the case for a purely civilian cybersecurity agency. Over the course of nine years, INCD’s civilian cybersecurity responsibilities expanded from policy and capability development to information sharing, daily cyber defense operations by the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IL), and CIP.
Israel’s cybersecurity journey has been marked by both accomplishments and mistakes, demonstrating a commitment to continuous innovation. The industrialized world can learn from the daring policy wagers that lay less tangible foundations.