Are Israel and the UAE headed towards a joint cybersecurity exercise? According to the Cybertech Global conference currently taking place in Dubai, the answer might very well be “yes, and soon.”
“The US holds the Cyber Storm Exercise, NATO holds Locked Shield—what do you think of a joint cyber exercise for us?” the UAE Government’s Head of Cyber Security, H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al-Kuwaiti asked his Israeli counterpart, Director General of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, Yigal Unna, this morning (Monday) on the central stage of the Cybertech Global conference, currently taking place in Dubai.
“I think it’s a great idea. I totally agree. You’re a veteran like me of how things work—without exercise, without practice, it’s only theoretical,” replied Unna enthusiastically. “With each new exercise you find new breaches, new ideas on how to correct and close them, and new ways to elevate and raise the levels of cybersecurity.”
“There’s a lot of asymmetry in cybersecurity—even the smallest individual hacker can cause damage to a country, a superpower. But asymmetry also works for the good guys, the defenders, and the UAE and Israel are similar in that perspective: we are small countries, we cannot rely on others, we must rely on ourselves to defend ourselves, be strong and prosperous.
“Because of our small scale, we need to get stronger in other means, such as the vision of digital life and how to protect it,” said Unna, adding that both countries can pave the way for exercises in all major sectors, such as finance, energy, and healthcare.
The two also discussed the challenges ahead that must be mitigated. “With the rise in digital information, there will be many increased threats,” said Dr. Al-Kuwaiti. “We need to prepare really resilient framework, and work together towards building that resilience—that will help us approach and work towards a safe and secure environment.”
On the subject of deterrence, Unna pointed out that “the world is miles away from the right level of it, starting with the problem of attribution – you can’t point a finger at the attackers, they say ‘it’s not me, someone is hiding behind this IP address.’”
But the solution lies in cooperation. “Deterrence should be a holistic approach, and one of the main steps is what we’re doing now,” continues Unna, gesturing to the stage and his Emirati partner. “If someone attacks Israel or the UAE, that attacker goes through other countries as well—India, Australia… so when we work together, bilaterally, we shed the light and push the darkness away, and that keeps the bad guys in their holes without the ability to come out and attack.”
“It’s the information sharing that really matters,” concludes Dr. Al-Kuwaiti. “The bio pandemic hit, and we coped with it—the cyber pandemic continues to be there. Preparing, sharing information—that’s my encouragement and advice for everyone.”