China isn’t Israel’s greatest cyber threat: minister

China is the biggest cyber threat to Israel, and that’s OK, said Amir Eshel, Israel’s minister of cyber defense. “The worst enemy of Israel is Israel,” he said. Mr. Eshel was at a London…

China isn’t Israel’s greatest cyber threat: minister

China is the biggest cyber threat to Israel, and that’s OK, said Amir Eshel, Israel’s minister of cyber defense. “The worst enemy of Israel is Israel,” he said.

Mr. Eshel was at a London event on developing a cybersecurity industry, known as the Cyber Fairs, hosted by The Times of London, Dow Jones Newswires and Mashable. Israel is working to make itself an attractive location for cybersecurity firms seeking a safe environment to develop their technology.

There are concerns Israel is a cyber backwater, considered less secure than other countries, because of the perceived threat from China, which may have hacked into a national energy grid. “That makes us cautious,” Mr. Eshel said. “The reality is that the more we talk about it, the harder we’re going to be.

“There is a lot of rubbish, even in the security field. It’s like the fog of war,” he added. “And we know we are attacked, but it’s not like we don’t know how to defend ourselves.”

The startup ecosystem is strong, with 10,000 cybersecurity companies competing for 1,300 of the most lucrative deals in the world, Mr. Eshel said.

Overall, Israel’s economy has more than doubled in the last eight years, thanks to high-tech companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook. Cyber security is booming and expected to reach $4.4 trillion globally by 2022, according to KPMG.

“Cyber is a different animal, and it’s not like the traditional IT industry,” Mr. Eshel said. “There is more opportunity.”

It’s also a much more sophisticated field, with role models and mentors that look different than in the past. “Look at Lockheed Martin,” Mr. Eshel said. “They have a cyber leader, and to compare cyber to aerospace, they have former defence officials. You would never have thought of that.

“There are also no generals that run the whole industry,” he said. “You need people who will take on the challenge. It can only work when people care about their mission.”

Mr. Eshel warned that it was not enough to simply create a government-backed cybersecurity agency. He called on business and academia to join forces and, along with the state, create a national cybersecurity academy.

But it was clear Israel wasn’t looking to China for inspiration on cyber defense. “The threat posed by China is different,” Mr. Eshel said. “We know how to get even.”

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