Podcast: Annie Fixler on Cyber Warfare in the 21st Century

A cyber security expert explains the major cyber threats facing the United States, and the role Israel could in play in securing both countries.



Dec. 17 2021
About the authors

Annie Fixler is the deputy director of the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

A weekly podcast, produced in partnership with the Tikvah Fund, offering up the best thinking on Jewish thought and culture.

This Week’s Guest: Annie Fixler


According to a new report, in 2020 2,400 U.S.-based healthcare facilities, local governments, schools, and other institutions were victims of ransomware—a form of cyberattack in which a hacker holds a person’s data hostage and demands a ransom to permit them to access it again. Ransomware has become such a problem that in October the U.S. State Department formed a new office to confront it, and in November the Treasury Department announced that it will partner with its Israeli counterpart on a joint task force to address this and other cybersecurity issues.

Israel, like America, is also confronted with problems in cyberspace. On this week’s podcast, Annie Fixler, the deputy director of the Center on Cyber Technology and Innovation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to explain the threats that cyber warfare poses to American life, and the role that Israel could play in helping secure both countries from malicious attacks, whether they come from lone-wolf hackers or enemy nation-states.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.



Excerpt (22:51-24:16):


There are countries where terrorists operate, and it’s because the government suffers from challenges related to rule of law and monopoly on the use of force, and issues of failed states, and in those cases the U.S. government tries to partner with governments, build law enforcement relationships. If it’s just a matter of a hacker or a terrorist is operating in a country that does have strong and robust law enforcement capabilities, then we partner with them. There’s that kind of relationship, and that is apt in the cyber world as well. There may be hackers operating from your territory―there are certainly American hackers who operate from the United States―and we try to arrest and prosecute them. In that scenario we would work with another country. 

And then there are countries, and I’m particularly thinking about Russia, that offer sanctuary. Everyone understands there that you can operate as a criminal hacker in Russia as long as you don’t hit Russian entities. As a long as you direct your hacks somewhere else, you don’t hit Mother Russia, you can continue to operate. To try to pretend that the Russian government doesn’t know that―we’re fooling ourselves. The Russian government is well aware of the hackers who are operating within its country, and chooses not to prosecute them. In that case, it’s a sanctuary and we need to consider it as such.

More about: cyber warfare, cybersecurity, hacking, Politics & Current Affairs, ransomware