Israel’s GDP of $350.9 billion ranks only 25th globally. However, the tiny country in the Middle East boasts one of the most powerful military forces around the globe. The US Congress’ Technology Assessment Office believes Israel had nuclear capabilities as early as 1967, before many of the largest countries had successful nuclear tests. In fact, some say Israel’s Air Force & intelligence force, the Mossad are without equals. But, in terms of raw numbers, Israel’s cybersecurity is awe inspiring.
Israel is a very small country with only about 8 million people; however, security-wise, the country is considered second after the United States in terms of cybersecurity. The country has more than 400 companies funded in the field of cybersecurity vs fewer than 1,000 in the United States despite being about 2% of the population. In fact, when Iran was hit in 2009 by a major computer virus that the US orchestrated, there were rumors that in fact it was Israel who carried out the mission on behalf of the United States.
The threat from outside forces compels the country to invest heavily in security. The Israeli-Palestinian and Israel-Syria conflicts are clear examples of why the country has to review its security measures constantly. To explain the move to invest heavily in cybersecurity, it is important to understand the military’s Unit 8200, an elite group of the Israeli Defense Forces.
This group is always alert on issues of cybersecurity not only in Israel but across the world. Unit 8200 focuses on intelligence and collects information and code decryption. It does not have a conventional recruiting model, and one does not have to acquire technical knowledge to be part of the group. The focus is on strong interpersonal skills and problem-solving skills.
So, why would Israel invest heavily in cybersecurity and have a team specifically to deal with the problem? The answer: the threat of the evolving international terrorism. Israel faces a challenging environment, especially from the Middle East. Every month, the country faces numerous cyber-attacks on the data systems and government websites.
In October 2018, the Israel Defense Force issued a press release claiming that the unit 8200 group prevented an ISIS air attack aimed at a Western country in 2017. While the authenticity of the claim cannot be ascertained, it is clear that the country takes issues of modern and international threats seriously. The country is ready to counter online and offline threats. Therefore, during recruitments, the Mossad and the Israeli army recruits computer wizards with strong communication skills.
In summary, there are several reasons the country has dominated the cybersecurity space in the world. They include good coordination from the government, acceleration of cyber defense by the military, strong investment in human capital, and focus on diversity. Indeed, with this profile, the country is bound to continue being a leader in cybersecurity.