State Comptroller report: Israel unprepared for cyber attacks

Israel’s top oversight agency on Tuesday warned that both critical infrastructure and the country’s civilian sector are woefully unprepared to face the substantial threat of cyber attacks.

The full text of State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s classified 36-page report was not made public so as not to disclose the full extent of Israel’s vulnerability, but a six-page executive summary said that a concerning amount of the country’s infrastructure is reliant on electronic platforms that remain vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Shapira said that while certain “national critical infrastructure” sectors are well-insulated against such attacks, some elements have yet to fully implement protective measures and a significant proportion of the country’s civilian sector functions remain vulnerable.

The report revealed that several entities deemed as critical state infrastructure have not fully complied with measures for protecting computer systems required by the Shin Bet domestic security agency, which oversees military cyber-defense and critical civilian infrastructure such as the railways, air-and seaports and power and electrical installations.

Shapira said that failure to comply with the directives “places essential national infrastructure or the business activity [of the entity] at risk.” Shapira called on the Shin Bet to report to the boards of directors of those entities who have yet to comply and to consider taking legal action to force their cooperation.

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The report also criticized the National Cyber Bureau and the new National Cyber Security Authority, responsible for overseeing cyber security in the civilian sector, for not keeping pace with the growing threats.

Shapira lamented that despite years of work, the National Cyber Bureau has yet to complete an important survey of civilian-sector entities in order to determine the extent of their vulnerabilities.

“By virtue of its responsibility, the bureau should have seen to it that the extent of the problem that it was dealing with was defined when it comes to civilian sector cybersecurity; that the fields and entities that needed to be protected be determined; and [that it be decided] how this needed to be addressed and what resources would be invested,” Shapira wrote.

 

Shapira pointed to recent global cyber hacks and the alleged interference in the United States electoral process by cyber hackers as evidence that cyber attacks are increasing in both magnitude and sophistication.

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The report addressed several other topics including the environment, transportation safety, the safety of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and issues related to the maintenance of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Shapira was especially critical of Israel’s Ministry of Education, after an investigation found that the ministry’s budget — one of the government’s largest — has been seriously mismanaged.

The report noted that while the education budget has increased steadily over the last few years in comparison with other OECD countries, Israel still has one of the largest educational gaps in the developed world.

A report published in June by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found significant discrepancies in education among different Israeli demographics, notably in terms of economic status and between Jewish and Arab residents.

The OECD report also found Israelis’ mathematics, reading, and problem-solving skills lag behind other developed countries, with nearly a third of Israelis lacking basic math skills.

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