Israel must take into account that their different intelligence agencies are not 100% invincible – that in this ongoing battle between state attackers or ‘lone wolf’ vs the defenders, the attacker usually has the upper hand.
By YOSSI MELMAN
We shouldn’t have been surprised this week when tens of thousands of CIA documents were released, revealing the organization’s cyber warfare methods and its operations to break into and attack computers and smart phones. Even the fact that a Samsung refrigerator can be used as a listening device that records voices in its vicinity is not new. The Korean company itself issued a warning saying as much to its customers more than a year ago.
We shouldn’t have been surprised because we have already known for years that we live in a “Big Brother” society. Every move we make and every sound we utter is liable to be filmed, recorded and documented.
And still, we are shocked anew each time that we see evidence of the extent to which our lives are exposed and we have no privacy.
The astonishment this time stems from the fact that the document dump is from an organization which is considered one of the most technologically advanced in the world. Furthermore, the infiltration into the CIA’s computers comes after several breaches of classified data by WikiLeaks and other whistle-blowers, fighting for transparency and against corruption.
In 2010, WikiLeaks released “the State Department cables” – millions of email exchanges which shed light on the covert contacts of American diplomats and intelligence operatives with their international counterparts. The document dump embarrassed both Washington and senior officials across the world. At the same time, WikiLeaks also revealed documents and a video depicting US armed forces’ war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is interesting that, as was the case on those occasions, the current document dump also came from WikiLeaks founder, and the driving force behind the organization, the fugitive of justice Julian Assange, who is sheltering in Ecuador’s embassy in London and is believed to be an agent or message pipeline for Russian intelligence. It was Assange’s organization which published the Democratic Party emails after the party’s computers were hacked prior to the US presidential elections, likely by Russian intelligence. The Democratic Party email hack affair is currently at the heart of an FBI and congressional investigation into President Donald Trump and his aides, who are suspected of possibly initiating the hack, or at least knowing about it ahead of the time or after the fact.
In 2013, US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden stole millions of documents and files from the NSA which showed that the organization collected information on tens of millions of telephones belonging to American citizens, and tapped the phones and emails of many world leaders, including those of Israel. Snowden, as well, is a fugitive of justice who is wanted by the United States and is sheltering in Russia.
In the following years, the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the “Panama Papers,” which revealed tax shelters around the world and exposed tax fraud and corruption of leaders, key business figures and other individuals around the world.
The current whistle-blowing against the CIA has set off red warning lights for international intelligence agencies, including those in Israel. They are surely pulling out their hair and wondering what will come of them if even the mighty have fallen.
The Mossad, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Military Intelligence and the IDF as a whole know well that they are an espionage target of both enemies and allies. They know this because everyday their cyber defense units discover and fight off hundreds, if not thousands, of attacks and attempts to penetrate their computer systems.
Despite this, they still must take into account that they are not invincible – that in this daily battle between attackers and defenders, the attacker always has the upper hand, just as the attack missile will generally have the advantage over a missile defense system’s interceptor.
It is not inconceivable that we will one day wake up to hear that somebody has succeeded in breaking into our most classified computers, the inner sanctum of Israel’s intelligence agencies. I hope I am proven wrong.
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