TEL AVIV — After liberalizing earlier this year its export control policy on dual-use, cyber-related products and services, the Israeli government is now reaching out to select military end users in a concerted push to surge cybersecurity sales.
On Tuesday, Mishel Ben Baruch, director of the Defense Ministry's Export and International Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT), told an international conference in Tel Aviv that his organization has declared 2017 "Israel's year of cybersecurity exports" and, as such, is targeting more than 20 countries for enhanced cyber-related trade.
"We identified specific opportunities and needs in more than 20 countries around the world with which SIBAT has close ties," Ben Baruch told several hundred government and industry participants attending this year's HLS and Cyber conference, sponsored by the Israel Export Institute.
According to Ben Baruch, Israel's Ministry of Defence (MoD) this year is conducting its first dedicated "cyber situational assessment" — alongside its traditional assessment for defense trade — and plans to coordinate "a special effort to advance the exceptional capabilities of Israel's cyber defense industries."
A special SIBAT survey of potential customers and their needs, he said, indicates growing trends, including:
- Development and supply of "cyber vaccines" to weapons and command and control systems.
- Establishment of advanced national Computer Emergency Response Team centers.
- Protection of strategic facilities.
- Cyber-related training and trainers.
- Advanced cybercrime tools and services.
"The Israel defense industries have amazing capabilities in research and development and technology, some of which is traditional defense technologies being adapted for cyber," Ben Baruch said.
According to Israel's National Cyber Directorate (NCD), cyber-related exports in 2015 amounted to about $4 billion, about $800 million above year-end 2014 figures and more than all other nations combined apart from the US.
Estimated Israeli cyber exports for 2016 are expected to "come very close or even exceed" the $5 billion mark, an NCD official told Defense News on Tuesday.
Such figures, he said, included all cyber-related exports, from commercial off-the-shelf and dual-use capabilities through sensitive military-end use products, services and technologies.
Earlier this year, after years of heated debate between the NCD and the MoD, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determined that Israel would liberalize licensing and technology transfer restrictions for all but military and defense end users.
As such, the government is forming a new authority to be managed jointly by the NCD and the Ministry of Economy for oversight and management of all commercial and most dual-use exports.
In a June interview, NCD Director Eviatar Matania said the new policy would be guided by the internationally accepted Wassenaar Arrangement for dual-use exports, "but nothing more than that."
"Most of the time, there will be a pre-ruling in favor of the exporters; a presumption of approval, instead of a presumption of denial," Matania had said. "Most product solutions and technologies should not be licensed, aside from those that are a part of the Wassenaar. But even within Wassenaar, there will be a pre-ruling if, for example, you sell to the United States."
Matania noted that only cyber-related exports to military users and international security agencies would remain under the purview of the MoD, with input from the Foreign Ministry.
"It’s not like we took away from MoD things for which it must be responsible," he said at the time. "The Ministry of Economy, together with the NCD, will have a new mechanism specifically crafted to the cyber domain."
In his conference presentation on Tuesday, Ben Baruch declined to name the 20-some countries identified by the MoD as targets of opportunity for enhanced cyber-related exports.
When asked to clarify, an MoD source whispered, on condition of anonymity: "Definitely not Russia."
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.