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Cybersecurity high on Netanyahu agenda for Trump, may meetings

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Dan Balilty

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with world leaders this month, strengthening cybersecurity ties will figure high on the agenda.“What you see today is going to get a lot worse in the future if we don’t band together,” Netanyahu said at a cyber conference in Tel Aviv last week. “That’s why I intend to raise the subject and discuss the subject of cooperation in cybersecurity in my upcoming visit in Washington with President Trump.”

Netanyahu, whose White House visit is scheduled for Feb. 15, said he’ll also bring up the subject when he meets on Monday with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

Israel is a global force in cybersecurity, drawing 15 percent of all capital the industry raised in 2016, according to Start-Up Nation Central, a group that promotes Israeli startups. Netanyahu has made developing the industry a priority, and last month, the U.S. approved legislation to expand joint cyber research with Israel.

Multinational cooperation is “a force multiplier,” said Nancy Wood, the assistant legal attache in the FBI’s Tel Aviv mission and the liaison with Israeli law enforcement authorities.

As attacks proliferate with ever more serious implications, so does cross-national collaboration among cybersecurity teams. Last year, a global manhunt involving Interpol and the FBI was launched to help solve the $81 million cyberheist from Bangladesh’s central bank. Israel’s own work with U.S. federal agents led to the October 2015 imprisonment of an Israeli man suspected of hacking computers of international singers, including Madonna.

Cybersecurity became a central issue in the U.S. even before Trump was sworn in as president, after intelligence authorities assessed that Russia sought to influence the elections that brought him to office by hacking Democratic Party computers and leaking e-mails. Israel, targeted in part by opponents of its occupation of land claimed by Palestinians, has drawn on expertise and experience gleaned from the country’s elite military intelligence forces.
Cyber attacks, Wood said, seem to be “the threat du jour.”

“It is only going to get worse and we have to try and get ahead of the curve,” said Wood, a former unit chief of the FBI’s Eurasia cyber division. “In the realm of terrorism we are struggling to keep up and the same is true of cyber.”

Rudy Giuliani, appointed by Trump to head a committee on cybersecurity, visited Israel last week to talk cyber defense. He told Netanyahu the U.S. hopes to collaborate with Israeli experts on government and civilian cybersecurity, the prime minister said on his Facebook page last month.

Collaboration on the industry level is also important, with health and energy industries facing broader security challenges as they become more connected through the Internet of Things, said Kevin Stine, chief of the applied cybersecurity division at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“The cyber and physical world are converging,” Stine said. “It is clear that the new administration views cyber security as a priority.”



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