19 May 2016

Australian security experts learn from Israel

Based on an article in J-Wire, May 20, 2016:
A group of  Australian business people, intelligence experts and academics have participated in the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce Security Delegation to Israel co-organised with Perth’s Edith Cowan University.

The purpose of the Security Delegation is: to study Israel's world-leading security and cyber-security systems and technology and the Start-Up business ecosystem that conceives them; and to understand how Australia can potentially adopt similar practices.

David Irvine , Chairman of the Australian Cyber Security Research Institute, presents a gift to Bar-Ilan University President Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz
David Irvine , Chairman of the Australian Cyber Security Research Institute, presents a gift to Bar-Ilan University President Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz

The delegation explored technologies associated with
  • online trading,
  • physical security
  • protection for high risk infrastructure and borders,
  • surveillance,
  • emergency management and
  • remote business continuity.
The Arab world is a mess for at least the next 20-25 years,” predicted Prof. Efraim Inbar, Director of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, in concluding his analysis of the current situation in the Middle East before the delegation of Australians who started their weeklong with a visit to Bar-Ilan University.

Inbar was one of four speakers from the University to address the delegation.

Speaking of its rising power in the region, Inbar pointed out that Iran today maintains leadership in four main capitals aside from Tehran: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana.   And now that it has received “carte blanche” to build a nuclear bomb in 15 years, there is a trend towards nuclear proliferation.  Egypt and Turkey, who are competing for regional hegemony, will not remain behind, and neither, he guessed, will Saudi Arabia, which is directly threated by Iran.  “In order to counter the Iranians’ attempt at hegemony, they will do their best to acquire nuclear weapons,” he said.   

The United States, he added, has no credibility in the region and its offer of a nuclear umbrella to these countries was turned down.   Regarding Syria, Inbar said that it will never return to what it once was.  “You can turn an egg into an omelet, but you can never turn an omelet back into an egg,” said Inbar, who will be leading a delegation of BESA Center analysts to Australia later this year.  He added that he considers Turkey an Islamic State with a clear Islamist agenda being imposed, and he is not optimistic about the future there.

University President Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz spoke about the importance of cyber security in Israel and at Bar-Ilan University in particular.  As Minister of Science, Technology and Space, Hershkowitz was asked by Prime Minister Netanyahu to form a national cyber headquarters in order to propel Israel into becoming one of the top five nations  in the world in this field.  The Prime Minister tapped Hershkowitz due to his extensive experience in IDF Intelligence and as a professor of mathematics.  Prof.  Hershkowitz praised Prof. Yehuda Lindell, an expert in cyber security at Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Computer Science, who is leading one of the five national cyber centers together with the national cyber headquarters.  He also spoke of the University’s unique Victor Bentata Mathematical Program for Gifted High School Students which enables the University to identify star math students and accelerate their study so that by the age of 18 they are just one year shy of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree.

David Irvine,  Chairman of the Australian Cyber Security Research Institute, thanked Hershkowitz for the intriguing analysis of what the University is doing in computer and cyber security research, as well as the situation in the Middle East.  Mr. Irvine is a former Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and former Director-General of the Australian Intelligence Service.

Prof. Yehuda Lindell, a native Australian, briefed the delegation on the Cyber Security Center he heads at Bar-Ilan University which is comprised of a core group of cryptologists, artificial intelligence experts and hardware security engineers.   Prof. Lindell conducts pioneering work in cryptography, focusing on secure protocols. He grapples both with theoretical aspects of cryptography, striving to discover what is cryptographically possible, and with practical realities, constructing efficient cryptographic schemes and protocols with rigorous proofs of security and correctness.  The Bar-Ilan Cyber Security Center is one of the five National Cyber Centers.

What does the future hold where cyber security is concerned?  Prof. David Passig, an expert in future studies at the University’s Churgin School of Education told the delegation that he is working towards an understanding of how humans are developing technology and what is behind this endeavour, in addition to predicting what types of breakthroughs we may see in the next decade or two.  In order to do that, he is producing algorithms that can predict how patterns of threats are developing.  “We are trying to figure out what is driving us to develop, for instance, wireless technology.  With that driving force I can figure out what may happen even if there aren’t any examples from the past.  What is the driving force behind cyber threats?  We are at a stage where we have an insight as to what may be in store for us in the coming decade,” said Passig.