Since its foundation, Israel has fought neighboring Arab nations and faced a continuous threat of terrorist attacks. As a result, the country is a world leader in cyber-defense technology. Under these precarious circumstances, Israeli corporations have continually accumulated IT skills and experiences. Many Israeli companies were contracted to implement countermeasures against cyberattacks during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Now that the Rio Olympics are over and Tokyo is preparing for its turn in 2020, Israel is approaching Japan in an attempt to find a new market for its cyber-defense technology, and Japan just happens to be suffering from a dearth of talent in the field of cyber-defense.
“We faced larger threats than anticipated,” said an official from “KELA,” an Israeli company that undertook cyber-defense measures during the Rio Olympics. Cyberattacks were as serious a threat as terrorist attacks at this year’s games.
The company monitors hacker exchanges on the “darknet.”* When they detect that internal corporate information or personal information is being secretly sold on the darknet, KELA alerts its clients. During the Rio Olympics, the company was reportedly on the lookout 24 hours for possible cyberattacks against official Olympic websites and information suggesting plans for terrorist attacks, notifying the Brazilian government of any suspicious activities.
Now that the Rio Olympics is over, Israel has its sights set on Japan as its next market for selling cyber-defense technology given that the country will host the Tokyo Olympics in four years.
In order to sell its cyber-defense capability to Japan, Israel established in January this year the Israel Cyber Companies Consortium (IC3) under the leadership of the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Economy, and the Israeli National Cyber Bureau. Seven Israel companies such as KELA and Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), a state enterprise, are members of the IC3. Officials of the participating companies are planning to visit Japan in early September to advertise their technologies to the Japanese government and companies.
The IC3 displayed its products for the first time at an IT fair held in Japan in May, attracting quite a bit of attention.
An IT engineer from a major Japanese electric appliance company, listening intently to a presentation by a KELA official at the fair, commented on KELA’s technology saying, “The technology is unprecedented and I am very interested in it.” “It is impossible to completely prevent cyberattacks,” said KELA’s Japanese representative Akio Ogiso. “It is vital to take measures to minimize the damage before information is leaked.”
Japan as a U.S. ally
In preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, Japan needs countermeasures against cyberattacks. Important tasks include preventing hackers from accessing the systems of the Olympics organizing committee and related organizations, preventing subversive activities that will paralyze social infrastructures such as transportation networks, as well as gathering information on possible terrorist attacks.
Bilateral cooperation between Japan and Israel in the field of cyber-defense began in 2014 when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his counterpart Netanyahu had a summit meeting. “Not all cyber technologies can be exported to all countries,” said an IC3 official. “We can, however, cooperate with Japan since the country is allied with the U.S.”
There are reportedly 100,000 cyberattacks against Israel in one day, making it necessary for the government to have high-level cyber technology to accompany its military power. In 2007, Israel reportedly crippled Syria’s air defense radar networks before conducting air strikes against the country, and in 2010, disabled Iran’s centrifugal separators at its nuclear facilities.
Conscription and education enable Israel to maintain its high-level cyber technology. Some high schools have a class in cyber-defense. After students graduate from high schools, both male and female students have to undergo military service. Talented individuals will be assigned to a cyber-related corps of elite troops. After serving in the military, the government will send them to universities or corporations to further nurture their talent.
Since its initial development by the military, Israeli cyber technology has been transferred to the civilian sector, becoming a robust export industry. The total amount of cyber-related exports reached $3 billion last year.
“We can advise Japan in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics,” said an Israeli official. “We welcome cooperation with Japan.”
*Darknet: An internet space that cannot be found by search engines and can only be accessed with specific software. The space is expanding every year, and many messages exchanged there are said to be criminal in nature.