Israel and the United States have signed an agreement aimed at increasing bilateral cooperation in the field of cyber defense. The Cyber Defense Cooperation Agreement penned on Tuesday, June 21, seeks to build joint infrastructure in cyber defense, create partnerships in private sector, fund research, and develop new technologies. The agreement wants to improve the existing mechanisms for sharing of operative information between U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Israeli counterparty, National Cyber Security Authority.

Israel has long established itself as a technology superpower with Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as major centres for cutting edge startup innovation — second in the world only to the Silicon Valley. In recent years, the city of Beersheba located in the middle of the Negev desert has emerged as the world leader in cyber security. Today, around 20 percent of all technology companies in Israel are working in cyber security, making it the biggest technology related sector in the country.

China and Russia are investing heavily in building capabilities to launch sustained cyberattacks against U.S. government and corporate sector. These state-sponsored cyber attacks are nothing like the old-school espionage, China and Russia are increasingly targeting academic, and private computer networks to get their hands on scientific research, intellectual property and industrial technology.

Not just big players, Islamic Republic of Iran is honing its skills in cyber terrorism. In 2013, Iranian hackers attacked U.S. infrastructure, breaking into the command and control system of a dam 25 miles north of New York City as well as carrying out series of cyberattacks aimed at U.S banking system.

In its war against online espionage and cyber terrorism, U.S. sees Israel as a competent and trustworthy partner.  The statement issued by the Media Advisor for Israel’s Prime Minister reads:

Israel National Cyber Bureau (INCB) Head Dr. Eviatar Matania and National Cyber Security Authority Head Buky Carmeli have signed a joint declaration on operative cyber defense cooperation between Israel and the US, in the presence of Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Under Secretary of Homeland Security (National Protection and Programs Directorate) Suzanne Spaulding.

The declaration expresses the vital nature of an international integration of forces in order to more effectively deal with joint threats in the cyber sphere, especially given the commitment of the US and Israeli governments to expand and deepen bilateral cooperation in cyber defense, which has grown in recent years.

Committed to its survival in a hostile neighbourhood, Israel has often turned to improvisation and technological innovation to make up for its tiny size and relative small population. To protect its civilian and defense infrastructure from cyber terrorism, Israel constantly works on perfecting anti-virus software, internet security and other cyber defense solutions. Technologies created for Israeli defense sector often find application in the corporate world. Young conscripts coming out of Israel Defense Force (IDF) are some of the most sought after cyber security talent, not just in Israel but in the world. The city of Beersheba has managed to attract and retain a lot of that talent.

Multinational firms like EMC, Deutsche Telekom, AG, Lockheed Martin, Oracle, PayPal and IBM have set up research centres in the city, attracting the best talent in cyber security from across the country. Start up incubators have been set up by venture capital firms to partner with Israeli entrepreneurs developing promising cyber security solutions. Today, Israel controls 8 percent of the world’s fast growing cyber security market, which estimated to be pegged at $70 billion.

As cyberspace turns into the battlefield of the future, U.S.-Israel cooperation in cyber security can create the much-needed bulwark against cyberattacks from rogue states and terrorist regimes.

Video: Israel at the forefront of Cyber Technology

[Cover image courtesy ISRAEL21c, YouTube]

Author is a Germany-based Analyst.