Hacking the Ayatollahs

In 2010, computer security experts started detecting the Stuxnet virus spreading rapidly across the Internet. Mysteriously, its complex code seemed to do nothing but further distribute the virus—until it encountered software used by the Iranian nuclear-weapons program, where it proceeded to interfere with the operation of centrifuges. Kim Zetter’s book reconstructing the story of Stuxnet, and examining its implications, is reviewed by Gabriel Schoenfeld:

Zetter marshals evidence suggesting that these high jinks slowed down Iran’s nuclear effort. It is not a criticism of her book to note that this assessment, like many of its observations and conclusions, is at best well-informed conjecture. [The covert operation that created Stuxnet] remains shrouded in secrecy. The interviews and public sources upon which Zetter draws yield no definitive information. Perhaps only the Iranians themselves know for certain what happened, and they are not telling.

Whatever Stuxnet did or did not accomplish, [Zetter’s book] has the virtue of putting the attack into a broader context. The epoch of cyber warfare inaugurated by Stuxnet promises to be no less unnerving than the nuclear-weapons age that began in 1945. The problem is familiar: What goes around comes around. We may hope that the virus damaged the ayatollahs’ nuclear program, but given the degree to which Internet connectivity has expanded into every corner of American life, we ourselves are susceptible to attack by the same kind of stealth weapon.

Read more at Hudson Institute

More about: Cyberwarfare, Iranian nuclear program, Mossad, Stuxnet

Despite the Toll of War at Home and Rising Hostility Abroad, Investors Are Still Choosing Israel

When I first saw news that Google wasn’t going through with its acquisition of the tech startup Wiz, I was afraid hesitancy over its Israeli founders and close ties with the Jewish state might have something to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong: the deal is off not because of Google’s hesitancy, but because Wiz feared the FTC would slow down the process with uncertain results. The company is instead planning an initial public offering. In the wake of the CrowdStrike debacle, companies like Wiz have every reason to be optimistic, as Sophie Shulman explains:

For the Israeli cyber sector, CrowdStrike’s troubles are an opportunity. CrowdStrike is a major competitor to Palo Alto Networks, and both companies aim to provide comprehensive cyber defense platforms. The specific issue that caused the global Windows computer shutdown is related to their endpoint protection product, an area where they compete with Palo Alto’s Cortex products developed in Israel and the SentinelOne platform.

Friday’s drop in CrowdStrike shares reflects investor frustration and the expectation that potential customers will now turn to competitors, strengthening the position of Israeli companies. This situation may renew interest in smaller startups and local procurement in Israel, given how many institutions were affected by the CrowdStrike debacle.

Indeed, it seems that votes of confidence in Israeli technology are coming from many directions, despite the drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the attack from Yemen, and despite the fact that some 46,000 Israeli businesses have closed their doors since October 7. Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, which creates software that identifies fake news, plans a $70 million IPO on Nasdaq. The American firm Applied Systems announced that it will be buying a different Israeli tech startup and opening a research-and-development center in Israel. And yet another cybersecurity startup, founded by veterans of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit, came on the scene with $33 million in funding. And those are the stories from this week alone.

But it’s not only the high-tech sector that’s attracting foreign investment. The UK-based firm Energean plans to put approximately $1.2 billion into developing a so-far untapped natural-gas field in Israel’s coastal waters. Money speaks much louder than words, and it seems Western businesses don’t expect Israel to become a global pariah, or to collapse in the face of its enemies, anytime soon.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: cybersecurity, Israeli economy, Israeli gas, Israeli technology, Start-up nation