Following a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Britain’s Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA) and the Israeli government in 2013, the two countries have now signed a Letter of Intent to jointly fund cyber research.
A call went out last month from Israel’s National Cyber Bureau (INCB) and Ministry of Science, Technology and Space (MOST), and the UK’s Cabinet Office (CO) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for research proposals in the field of cyber security. Thursday, Dr. Eviatar Matania, head of INCB, and his British counterpart, James Quinault, Head of OCSIA, signed the Letter of Intent in London.
“Britain is one of the most advanced countries in the world on cyber defense, and we place great importance on promoting and strengthening cooperation with our UK partners,” said Dr. Matania. “We believe that mutual sharing of knowledge will strengthen both countries.”
A press release issued by Israel’s Economics Minister said the fund “will enable Israeli and British researchers to strengthen collaboration and conduct joint projects which will place them at the forefront of global scientific research.”
The fund, which is set at £1.2 million (over $2 million), will be channeled into research in six key areas: identity management, governance: regulating cyber security, privacy assurance and perceptions, mobile and cloud security, human aspects of security or usable security and cryptography. These areas were chosen by academics as the fields in which cooperation would be most beneficial. The goal is to encourage UK and Israeli academics to work together more effectively.
Israel takes a special interest in cyber security, as its sites and servers are disproportionately targeted by hackers worldwide. Although many of those attacks were thwarted, Israel’s Head of Military Intelligence, Major General Aviv Kohavi, sees the cyber threat as growing and dynamic, one whose impact is not yet fully understood.
Speaking in January at the seventh annual Security Challenges of the 21st Century conference at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Kohavi said, “There are 170,00 rockets and missiles directed at Israel. There are increased threats from the cyber realm along with great additional potential for intelligence in cyber capabilities.”
Israel has not taken the offensive lying down, however, and has created an elite team of its own hackers, under the auspices of the country’s intelligence agency, the Shin Bet. Last month they successfully launched a counter-offensive against the hacker collective Anonymous, identifying sixteen members, photographing them using their own webcams, and revealing their personal online information. The information was published via Facebook, along with the message, “Anonymous, next time do not mess with us.”