Yonah Jeremy Bob




Analysis: Israel, US both face cyber threats, but capabilities differ

As yet, there is no specific convention or treaty to regulate cyber warfare and seriously address its unique characteristics. Read more…



The Cyber warfare threat is bigger than the nuclear weapons threat. Wait one second – am I crazy? No, it really is.

No one has been using nuclear weapons, even though fanatical rogue countries like North Korea and Pakistan (easily as scary as Iran) have them.

In contrast, nations are using cyber warfare a lot.

Nuclear weapons can’t be obtained by organizations without the help of nation-states. But one person can cause nationwide cyber disaster. They can bring down the stock market, air traffic control, perform electronic spying to locate, sabotage or even steal weapons – maybe even take control over a Western country’s nuclear weapons?

They can also make a nation’s everyday life unlivable by interfering with banking, streetlights, elevators and other issues – basically almost any part of industrialized life. The question about a massive cyber attack occurring is probably not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’?

Anticipating this new threat, the IDF is at the cutting edge in developing technology in this area, with several units now online, including both defensive and offensive units (though the offensive one is discussed less publicly.) Israel may even create an entirely new cyber command like in the US, giving it a similar status to the navy and the air force – signaling cyber’s importance.

(About a month after I gave this speech, I attended a speech by IDF Major-General Uzi Moscovici, one of the IDF’s ‘cyber-chiefs’, who implied that there was no consensus yet on whether Israel would copy the US by creating a new cyber command.)

I had an exclusive interview with IDF Colonel Sharon Afek, previously number two in the whole legal division and who is discussed as a potential future head of the entire division, in which he showed how Israel is at the cutting-edge of legal developments regarding cyber warfare.

He personally authored a 149 page treatise – the largest of its kind in the world by anyone of similar qualifications and experience in any language. The treatise will likely have a major impact internationally.

Within Israel, because of Afek’s large influence and the respect he commands, it will also likely be Israeli doctrine for some time to come. Afek also guaranteed this by writing the first edition in Hebrew so it is user-friendly for the IDF rank and file, whereas most primary documents relating to the international laws of war are only in English.

The treatise addresses issues like: does international law apply at all? (Afek: says it does) How can it? How do we deal with the moral and conceptual revolution (differentiating between combatants and civilians, the battlefield and the home-front, when cyber warfare turns all of these concepts upside down and makes everywhere the battlefield at any time?

One person on one side of the world can merely press a button and instantaneously, presto! – there is a massive impact on the other side of the world on another nation’s home-front, even though the cyber attacker would be far too weak to mount an invasion on such a superior foe – say Iran and North Korea using cyber attacks against the US.

(NOTE: Other topics addressed in this and similar speeches include: drone warfare, iron dome, missile defense and other new trends in warfare with Israel’s adversaries arising from changing technologies.)