PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the CyberTech Conference
Photo by Amos Ben Gershom, GPO 

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks today to the CyberTech Conference in Tel Aviv:
"Shalom, I’m pleased to welcome all of you, the Ambassador of the United States to Israel and everyone else.
I’m happy that you’re here. There is a great opportunity and a great challenge. This is created by the convergence of universal productivity and vast computing power. That’s changing our world. It’s creating things that we could not have imagined only a few years ago, both in the availability of information and the power of innovation and the increase of human productivity in everything. This is the blessing. It affects every individual. It affects every nation. It affects the world.
But it has a curse. The curse is not only the reason that you’re here and the subject of our meeting. The curse has, for example, the curse of vastness also includes the curse of shallowness – shallowness in public discourse, instant referendums that are very hard to govern with – but this is a fact. This is like the curses of the automobile at the dawn of the industrial age, the addition of machines that change our life and it comes with a cost. But the benefits outweigh the costs and the future beats the past.
But the greatest curse that we face is not that. The greatest curse that we face is that in the internet of everything, everything can be penetrated. Everything can be sabotaged. Everything can be subverted. And when I say everything, I mean everything. It’s our personal privacy. It’s the robustness of our infrastructure. It’s our national economies and our national defense. Everything from our personal accounts and information, our bank accounts, our power grids, our communications centers, our planes, our cars – that’ll change too in a big way – even the way we do elections. Everything can be penetrated.
This is a fact. And therefore we cannot grow with the future, with the internet economy, with the possibility of exponential growth in some cases – we cannot grow if we do not have cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is essential. It’s essential for our defense as individuals and as nations, but it also creates, because of its vitality, because of its importance, because of its centrality, it creates vast economic opportunity.
This is essentially what we decided to do here in Israel a few years ago. I think in one of the first conferences that we held here, I said that we intend to be one of the five leading cyber powers in the world. I think we’ve achieved that, but I don’t think we should be number five or number four, and I don’t think we are. Now, when I say that, I’m talking about the question of cybersecurity in both realms, the realm of national security and the realm of industry. How do we provide for our defenses and yet how do we…? How do we provide cybersecurity solutions for Israel? That’s in the national defense. And second, how do we provide solutions for the rest of the world?
First of all, there’s a conflict between the two. It’s built in because one of the things that we each want to cherish is the secrets of our own defense. And yet I recognize that in this field, unless we cooperate, there cannot be growth and I am a champion of growth. And I believe in this cooperation. So with great deliberation, after much thought, we’ve decided to embark on a course that deals first with our cybersecurity in this country, and second with our cooperation by taking calculated risks of cooperation with governments and with companies.
And you can see by that fact that we are here in a conference with 8,000 participants that obviously we’re able and willing to take some risks and I am very happy to see that other countries recognize this as well. We have here the Foreign Minister, my colleague – I’m the Foreign Minister – the Foreign Minister of Estonia. I’m very happy to see you here. Here’s another country that has similar calculations and decisions, and I think this is indicative of the fact that we’re open to cooperation with countries and with companies.
Now how do we look at the problem, first on the country-level? We’ve thought about it long and hard, and one thing I can tell you is that no matter how much other governments think about it, and you may be part of that calculation, you’re never going to get it right. And if you try to solve all the problems, you’ll solve none of the problems. So we’ve decided to organize our national cyber effort in – what we say in the army is to move it in a direction and get everything organized as we move forward. In the military, if you have a force in the field – you’ve got a lot of tanks or armored personnel carriers or jeeps, they’re scattered in the field, and you say, ‘Well, how am I going to push this thing forward?’ And if you think about it and think about it and think about it and think about every individual piece and how they interconnect, you’re not going to move.
So what we do often in the military is we say we are moving in that direction and everybody fall in place as we move forward, and in a way it’s easier to organize things as you move forward rather than try and solve everything in advance by cogitating, by doing endless seminars. We just decided to move forward.
And we’ve decided to move forward in the following way: On the national level, first in the military we created a cyber-force. This is like the Air Force or like the Navy or like the ground forces. This is an arm of the military. I won’t enlarge on that.
The second is to create a national cybersecurity authority, and we’ve just appointed its head and I’m sure he’s going to take this forward very rapidly. Now, this means that we are coordinating all our civilian cybersecurity efforts in one address. This is something that we do because if we don’t, we’re just not going to move in the direction that we need to try to give greater cybersecurity to our companies, to our vital infrastructure, to our civilians, our citizens. And we’re doing this.
We’re looking at this structure, this new authority, in three dimensions. The first dimension is, if I have to liken it to a disease even though fighting diseases, I would say the first thing is to immunize organizations and individuals. And that means approaching businesses, giving them guidelines, best practices, standards, across the country. Every single business. Here’s what we expect you to do in cybersecurity. And that’s for immunization. The second thing is actually treating attacks, outbreaks, and this means: Here’s what we do, here are the things that we are going to do and we will be prepared to do in the case of actually attacks. The third goes beyond that and asks what if we have mega-attacks and this requires the pooling of all our efforts, not only our civilian efforts, but also the involvement of our security establishment and all the knowhow.
So we divide it into immunization, treatment and mega-events that require – how shall I say this? They require treating the attack and treating the attacker. This is what we are involved in on a national level. This decision is something that we are sharing with other governments. But let me say that this a very, very difficult process because it requires change, and like all change it challenges vested interests – not corrupt interests, but vested practices. Because you have to say to this security organization or to that controlling agency or to this arm or that arm of the government or of our security forces, "Fall in place. Get your jeeps, get your APCs, get your tanks following in this direction." And this is the guy who’s leading and that takes… Everyone retains their activity to some extent, but there is a hierarchical structure and one responsible address.
Now as I say this, this could change. This could change because we’re just moving and we’ll see how we adopt our practices as we go along. But we do not want to divide the realm of civilian cyber defense among many addresses. We can have great chaos. Yet at the same time, we want to make sure that we have enough resilience and robustness in the system so that when we are attacked, everything falls at the same time. There’s a lot of tension between competing interests, and I can’t, obviously discuss everything publicly, but you have to take a decision and you have to move. So we’ve done that on the national defense. We’re doing it and again, we are open to share our conclusions with other governments.
I want to say on this something else. I think that there is a critical need for like-minded governments to have serious discussion about cooperation in the broader international realm. I would not seek to have a universal, universal codes because it’s not going to work. It’ll work for cyber peacekeeping more or less as the UN works for international peacekeeping. It doesn’t, it just doesn’t. It works when you have what I call two consenting adults. It works when you have countries that decide basically to have peace between them and you want somebody to monitor that peace. Then it works. But in cases of overt conflict or covert conflict, it doesn’t work. And therefore what we need here is a meeting – literally a meeting of the leaders of like-minded nations, with our top experts – to discuss what it is that we could do among countries that want to maintain the free and safe operation of our societies and how do we pool some of our resources together to that effect. Maybe from that we’ll begin to establish international standards or at least multinational standards that will increase cybersecurity. This is, I think, something that is yet to be done, but I’ve been speaking about this with a number of world leaders, and I hope it will be done soon.
Now, as far as the opportunities that accrue to us because of the cybersecurity revolution: I think it’s evident that a lot of the cybersecurity technology originated in Israel over the past 25 years, not all of it, but obviously a good part of it. The second thing that’s obvious is that the world recognizes that. Your presence here, I think, is testimony to that. We’ve had a spectacular growth of investments, startup companies. We’ve got about 20% of the private global investment in cybersecurity here. We’ve got a great growth in mergers and acquisition. I think it’s about 1.3 billion dollars this year, or rather in 2015. In any case, both numbers are almost doubling what we had in previous years. It’s our challenge to sustain this growth. That requires maintaining a business environment, a pro-business environment on the one hand, the supply of very smart people on the other hand – the supply of people who study mathematics at a high level – and I believe also the invitation to other countries, other companies, to come here, other countries to send interns here. I have all possible envy against the Silicon Valleys that I know from personal experience, the one around Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the one around Palo Alto. Why shouldn’t there be a third one here?
I don’t mean just our own capacities. I mean the capacities of other nations. Why can’t we send young mathematicians from Asia or from Europe or from around the world and have young Jews and non-Jews who specialize in mathematics come here for a few years and be part of this growth and afterwards they can go to their respective countries and companies. I believe that we can do this, and we should do this. I want Israel to be not merely a cybersecurity power in its own right, but a generator of these capacities for worldwide usage, and I believe we can do this.
Now obviously we have to engage the private sector continuously. We do that not only with the cybersecurity authority, which is not merely coming from high up and telling companies what to do. It also engages them and tries to learn from them, glean from them a lot of information that is then merged with the expertise of our defense establishment. But I think that there is also an opportunity here to develop a special environment which produces the growth of cybersecurity companies to the benefit of the Israeli economy and for the benefit of worldwide cybersecurity.
To that end, we have tried to create in Beer Sheba a special environment. Now, look, I have every admiration for Tel Aviv and Herzliya and what has developed here, but we want to replicate it also in Beer Sheba and we’ve, I’ve made a decision to move our NSA to Ben-Gurion University. It’s literally, its headquarters is on the campus. All the Beer Sheba people are now applauding, yes. We are taking our national cyber headquarters into that campus and we opened a cyber park. We call it CyberSpark, right there, and it’s all within a hundred meters. All within a hundred meters.
And so what we have is the interaction, the physical interaction, of people who are in our defense establishment, in our highest national security arms, with people in the university and with people in industry from Israel and abroad – all there, one place, a hundred meters. They meet, they talk, they interact. Is there a risk involved? Sure. We take that risk. Is there a process that emerges? Yes, it does. It creates tremendous robustness.
So I was there showing off to some visitors from abroad and I saw some of these startup companies. And there’s a young man there, must be 25, and I look at him and I said, ‘You look familiar’. And he says, ‘Prime Minister, I was giving you intelligence briefings a few years ago.’ I said, ‘Yeah, you look familiar.’ And I said, ‘So what are you doing here now?’ And he looks at me and he says, ‘Now? Now I’m rich.’
Well, you can be rich too. You could come there and you can partake of this opportunity, and that’s what I encourage you to do. Look, if you insist on being in Tel Aviv, it’s okay, but I think you should insist on being in Israel. I think the opportunities that present themselves in Israel are unique. There are advantages to being small. Not many, but some. One of the advantages, for example, is it’s easier to police your borders. They tend to be smaller. That today is a big issue for many countries.
But the second advantage is that all these people, people who are serving in our top-notch military units who have become entrepreneurs or knowledge-workers right after they leave, and the academics who are excelling in these disciplines in our universities and cross-disciplines, and the entrepreneurs themselves who are here from Israel and abroad – it’s a very small place. And still, and I know this will come as a shock to you for all of you are using these gadgets, okay? Still this interaction is the one that is the most powerful. It is still the other ingredient that really makes the cake. It really gives it robustness. It gives it the growth. It gives it the innovation. It gives that special thing. And in Israel you have all these elements in a very small place constantly, constantly allowing for cross-fertilization.
My late father who was a great historian said that, used to say that conversation fertilizes thought, and I don’t just mean gadgets. That’s important and the passage of information through digital means, that’s clearly vital. I mean the exchange, the human exchange in close proximity has that extra push, that extra punch. It just does. Thank God for that.
And what we have here in a very small space is people from disparate disciplines coming together to resolve, to bring cybersecurity solutions to the world. I think you should be part of it. Those of you who are already here, do more – for yourselves. Those of you who haven’t come, come here and do more – for yourselves. Because I think this is a vast business opportunity.
Now, we have obviously the challenge of what I call the calculated risk. And we have had some discussion in the past few weeks about cyber-export controls. I want to tell you my approach, and I want to put all of you at ease. I think this is important for the growth of this industry. If we do not define the problem, then everything will be a problem. Now, in Israel, traditionally we had a fairly closed economy that we opened over the years. I had something to do with that as Prime Minister, as Finance Minister, but the rules in Israel were… in general, they tended to say that everything is forbidden unless something is permitted, okay? That was the way we ran our economy and we had to change that. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had the growth of the combination of free market and technology that has produced the story, the economic story of Israel today, which turned it into a global technological power. We changed it and we said in many areas everything is permitted unless specifically forbidden.
In cyber today that is where we’re going. We’re going to say everything is permitted unless specifically forbidden, and that will enable us to grow our cyber industry without getting into conflicts in the future. It’s something that we’re doing in an open discussion with our cyber companies. We have a dialogue between government and business, but my goal, and that’s what I want to assure you, my goal is to continue growing the cyber industry nationally and internationally for us at the same rate that we’ve done in the past, so my goal is to enable that growth, that productivity, while maintaining a very narrow band of interests, of national security, that I think any country would have to treat, probably is treating. But I want to define it. I want you to know the ground rules. I don’t want you to fall on your face as you’re beginning to develop something and then discover that you’re going to be in, go over the cliff. I want to define the narrow elements of national security and I want to give you the greatest freedoms possible to develop your industries. It is definitely, definitely a pro-business, pro-entrepreneurial direction that we are leading and will continue to lead.
I want to stress one last thing. I said that we’re in a world of great technological change. This is true. It presents possibilities that could not be contemplated in history. And that is also true. It gives billions of people the opportunity to have at their fingertips the knowledge of centuries, and the accumulation of knowledge is proceeding at a stupendous pace. All of that is true. So we have the possibility of what appears to be almost a limitless future. Yet at the same time, we are facing another force that challenges modernity, and that force is a savage early and primitive medievalism that seeks to take our world back to a dark age of humanity, over a thousand years ago. There’s a great clash in the world today between the forces of medievalism and the forces of modernity. The forces of medievalism are led by the two forces of militant Islam, those led by Iran on the extremist Shiite side, and those led by Daesh on the extremist Sunni side.
Many, many in the Muslim world are the first victims of this militancy, and of course everyone else is. The problem that we face is that the militants are using the technologies I just described. This is one of those few times in history in which the forces that seek to take humanity back are using some of the forces that take humanity forward. And this presents a greater challenge to us.
Israel is firmly on the side of modernity. We’re very proud of our ancient heritage. We’re proud of the nearly 4,000 years that we are attached to this land and the great values that we’ve given to humanity from the People of the Book. But we are absolutely committed to the future and it’s based on our heritage. It’s based on the biblical values that we developed in this country and on the Talmudic tradition of constantly expanding knowledge and querying, asking questions and reiterating solutions and finding new solutions. It’s very much in our history, so we are proud of our past, but we seize the future.
But our future and your future, the future of all mankind, the future of all humanity, depends on this battle. We have to make sure that the forces of the future defeat the forces that seek to take the world back to a dark age. I think this is also part of our challenge. I think that we have to pool resources to make sure that tomorrow wins over yesterday. And that too is part of our task in cybersecurity, in the assurance of cybersecurity.
I would welcome all of you to come and invest in Israel. It’s just good business. Thank you, thank you very much.”