A mix of intelligence and technological capabilities could be the key to escaping the next mega hack, former Mossad and former German intelligence BND chiefs told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Speaking only a week after announcing that former BND chief August Hanning had joined the World Health Energy Holdings (WHEN)
cyber security company, former Mossad
director Danny Yatom, who is WHEN’s president, told the Post that, “there is a development that anyone who wants to hack has so many motivations, and with digital systems there are more hacking options, more capabilities and more hackers who can destroy systems or cause them to cease functioning.”
“There are states like Iran trying to harm infrastructure: water, electricity and transportation in Israel,” said the former Mossad director.
Yatom stated, “There is a weakness in the modern world with the fact that we depend more and more on the digital sphere. There are more states developing hacking capabilities against other states and this will change, or already has changed, into a new war in addition to all” of the traditional areas of war.
He said that bringing down the network of a business could cause “complete chaos,” and in certain areas like air travel, lead to very dangerous situations.
Next, he was presented with the premise that no matter how much time and energy Israel, the US and other Western allies invest in cyber defense that cyber offense always beats cyber defense, leading to mega economy-wide hacks, given sufficient time and resources.
Yatom responded that, “This is very true in some ways,” but is not the full picture because there are many attempted attacks which “are blocked by cyber defense systems – these do not get the same amount of publicity.”
“We hear more about successful attacks, but barely hear about the tens or hundreds of thousands of [serious] attacks which fail, so the image we get of the cyber systems is as if everything is penetrated and porous like a wide-open net, but this is not true. You need to look at the full picture, including the successes,” he said.
Describing his company, WHEN Group, he said, “We collect data about the behavior of the officials who are part of a group or business which we want to defend over a period of days or weeks.”
He explained that WHEN’s system tracks and collects all audio, video, writing and geolocation data and metadata from company cell phones and computers so that all company activity is constantly monitored.
Privacy protections generally prevent companies from collecting such data from employees’ personal cell phones and electronic devices, but the private sector can condition employment on performing all business functions solely on its own devices.
Yatom did add that a company can decide to limit or focus data collection to certain subjects or people and can turn on or off other collection options.
He confirmed that in some ways his company’s solution is designed to catch an individual like Edward Snowden
, who leaked huge aspects of US CIA and NSA technological tracking secrets, and to do this before they can ferret out company information to the outside world.
Still, “the goal of the system is not to follow employers and check if they are ok. This might be a byproduct, but it is just there to gather information to see if there is a breach based on how the group acts day to day,” he said.
“We know how to frame what is happening in the company or factory… once there is even a small element which is not compatible with standard behavior, the system waves a red flag,” said the former Mossad chief.
Next, WHEN’s system “automatically reviews if there is something hostile and automatically eliminates the threat before it can spread.”
Yatom said that bringing in Hanning was important as the company moves into a new phase of growth in the US and globally in general.
Hanning will give the company more of an international flavor, he said, while also mentioning that there were plans to bring aboard another one or two similar big-name consultants.
Also, he noted that the company is registered in Delaware with divisions in both Florida and California.
Specifically regarding Hanning, Yatom said the two intelligence chiefs knew each other even prior to their Mossad-BND cooperation from the era where Yatom was military adviser to then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Hanning was a top advisor to then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Yatom declined to get into the specifics of their intelligence cooperation, for example against Iran, but said, “it is known that there is cooperation between the Mossad and many foreign intelligence agencies, usually with top ones, and the BND is thought of as one of the best.”
Beyond that, Yatom complained that the recent era had seen too much publicity about specific Mossad operations, including former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelation of the espionage agency’s heist of Iran’s secret nuclear archives.
Hanning said he would be able to help WHEN because of “my intelligence background – intelligence agencies play an important role in the cyberspace business. We are of course more concentrated on the private sector, but you need contacts with states, law enforcement and intelligence agencies… I have some contacts here in Germany and Europe, he has good contacts in Israel and the US.”
Addressing the mega hacks problem, Hanning said, “this is one of the very big problems [hovering] over the world at the government, society and economic levels. What we see is that these hackers are on the side of state hackers and intelligence organizations, with every modern intelligence agency having a tool for hacking.”
The former BND intelligence chief described how there is a rising dangerous mix of powerful purely private hackers along with “a gray zone between those [private hackers], state agencies and intelligence agencies using hackers for their own purposes.”
Moreover, he said that many private sector businesses were not even reporting when they were hacked, and were simply paying ransoms to the hackers to free up their systems “because they fear this will weaken their position.”
While praising intelligence cooperation between Western countries, he said many private sector companies need private sector cyber defenses like WHEN because the state cannot protect everyone and private cyber firms can act faster, cooperate worldwide and with no border issues.
Link to Jerusalem Post