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Keith Alexander: These two countries realize that someone who can’t wage physical war will try to fight in the cyber sphere.
If anybody understands a thing or two about cyber security, it is former National Security Agency director and former US Cyber Command commander General (reserves) Keith Alexander. The NSA, the official US government intelligence agency, is responsible for signals intelligence, global monitoring, and developing encryption and signals methods for foreign intelligence and counter intelligence. The NSA is also responsible for protecting US government communications and information systems against foreign penetration and cyber warfare. Alexander served in these positions for eight and a half years, before retiring in early 2014. He will visit Israel in order to take part as a special guest in the Rethink Cyber conference that will take place on June 25, and will open the 2017 Israel Cyber Week. The conference, which takes place each year in five cities around the world – New York, San Francisco, Tel Aviv, London, and Singapore – is a Team8 initiative for promoting cyber security entrepreneurship on a global scale.Alexander was at the helm when the Edward Snowden affair broke. Snowden was a former NSA employee who leaked secret information about the NSA’s monitoring plans. During the interview with Alexander, he quite expectedly adhered to the NSA line in the affair, saying, “The Snowden case taught us that we had to do a better job of protecting ourselves, because the Snowden case can happen again. Because we are still not sure of what motivated Snowden, I’m worried that we are still far from understanding what motivates people like him to do what they do.
“I want to ask you: how would you feel if someone in Israel endangered the security of the country by revealing to the entire world how Israel protects itself against terrorism? I assume you wouldn’t want that to happen. That’s what Snowden did.”
“Globes”: Could the Snowden case repeat itself, meaning that someone from within the NSA will act against it?
Alexander: “Yes, that’s part of the risk. The NSA is doing everything so that such a case won’t happen again, but you can’t ensure that it won’t happen again.”
How do you explain that Israel is second only to the US in cyber security?
“It’s because Israel is a country that has already fought to survive for 69 years, and this survival is a very big commitment. Still, I don’t see many differences between the US and Israel in the cyber security market; I see many similarities. These two countries realize that someone who can’t wage physical war will try to fight in the cyber sphere.”
According to Alexander, the next stage in the global campaign against cyber attacks is as much cooperation as possible between companies, and especially, and most importantly, between countries. “Right now, every company and every country is protecting itself separately, and what has to happen is for all of them to work together to protect each other. It’s like cooperation in the war against terrorism, and it can happen in the war in cyberspace.”