"Cyber War has become the New Normal"

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yiftach Ron-Tal, Chairman of the Board of Israel Electric Cooperation, shared his insights about the trends in the cyber era at the Cybertech Singapore conference

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yiftach Ron-Tal (Photo: James Ng) 

In his address at the Cybertech Singapore conference, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yiftach Ron-Tal, Chairman of the Board of Israel Electric Cooperation (IEC), shared his main insights about cyber era becoming ever more sophisticated, affecting almost every aspect in our lives, being one of the most challenging technological developments, and one of the biggest risks to the Smart digital world.

From his point of view, the characteristic of cyber is changing. It transforms from massive attacks based on denial of service to sophisticated, focused attacks. The attacks are based on what he calls "native vulnerabilities." "Those vulnerabilities become the most precious asset in attackers’ hands. In the interconnected world in which we are living, the cyber vulnerability level depends on the architecture of those complex systems, and the procedures being used."

Maj. Gen. (res.) Ron-Tal gave an overview of his cyber insights from two years ago, checking to see if they have changed. His conclusions were clear: we are in an ongoing war. The cyber threat has become an existential threat, and the new rule in the cyber warfare is “The best defense is defense." According to him, three main challenges are critical for effective cyber defense: Supply chain control, Creating wisdom, and Cooperation and sharing.

Is Cyber Existential?

Maj. Gen. (res.) Ron-Tal questioned whether cyber threats are existential. He maintains that they do not threaten our existence yet, but he is sure the gap is closing. "In the 'Smart World' concept of a saturated computer environment controlling everything, cyber defenders must shape-up constantly, with a high level of creativity and sophistication."

In his view, there are four winning vectors for comprehensive cyber defense: Technology, Policies and Procedures, People, and Integration and coordination. "The fact is," he said, "that technology is just not enough. Technology is a necessity, but it is only one vector of creating a real and effective cyber shield. The answer is simple and familiar in many domains."

2016 IEC Observations and Insights of Cyber

Maj. Gen. (res.) Ron-Tal shared observations and insights of cyber derived from IEC’s experience. To handle the threats, IEC has established a Security Operation Center (SOC), to enable managing and monitoring 24/7, in real-time, of all mission-critical infrastructures. In addition, IEC established a research & training arena for cyber warfare – CyberGym. It is a unique and one of the most advanced and professional cyber arenas in the world.

"In summary," he concluded, "the transition into the smart digital world is reflected in the 'Internet of Things' (IoT) trend, creating a world with billions of components connected via communication networks. The greater the use of linked digital components, the larger the number of threats and higher the risks they reflect.

"One of the main challenges is to create wisdom in the system. It will establish a new dimension in cyber defense – the dimension of prediction. The ability to predict what is going to happen, very short time before it happens – the 'Earthquake Prediction Model' (EPM).

"Cyber war has become the 'New Normal.' We should not accept this situation and must fight it as long as needed causing the 'good guys' to unite and create a real, stable and sustainable 'cyber shield.'"

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