Cyber Warfare Is Bigger and Scarier Than You Think, Security Expert Says

Israeli military scientist Isaac Ben-Israel warns that cyberattacks can have physical effects beyond the digital world

Of all the keynotes at this year’s t3 Enterprise conference in Las Vegas, the one most illuminating and alarming was delivered by Isaac Ben-Israel, the chairman of the Israel Space Agency and head of the Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space. A military scientist who is also a retired general of the Israel Defense Forces and former member of parliament, Ben-Israel presented his views on the development of artificial intelligence and the impact it has on the cyber threats that can lead to ransomware attacks or breaches such as the one Equifax experienced this year.

Using the Stuxnet virus, which took an Iranian uranium facility offline, Ben-Israel noted that real physical effects — in this case the collapse of the centrifuge machines — can result from "virtual" information such as the computer virus. This led him to propose four false dogmas relating to cyber warfare.

First, cyber warfare is not only about information, as evidenced by the Stuxnet virus.

Second, cyber warfare is not only about the internet — the Iranian facility wasn’t even connected to the internet.

Third, cyber warfare is not only about computers, as there was not a computer to be seen in the Iranian nuclear facility. Stuxnet attacked the centrifuge machine controllers instead of computers.

Finally, cybersecurity is not only about technology, as without taking into account the psychology of individuals and social behavior, legal problems or business considerations, one would not be able to choose the right technology to develop in the first place.

Ben-Israel says cyber security is simply the dark side of computing, and our industry is tasked with minimizing that dark side by taking preventative steps.

Enter artificial intelligence based on machine learning algorithms, now known as deep learning.

AI plays two distinct roles in the financial advisor community, first as intelligence to drive trading — Ben Israel estimates 95% of all trades in the exchanges are now computer-driven — and AI also is the underpinning of modern robo software that is increasing in popularity.

However, AI may play a bigger role in the future, as the engine in cybersecurity tools that help prevent socially engineered phishing attacks and viruses from impacting the machines and networks that increasingly are the lifeblood of businesses.

He left the audience with some points to ponder. “When we make a biological virus, we have to check that it won’t cause a pandemic,” said Ben-Israel. “But, we don’t have to do that for computer viruses.”

His final, echoing thought: “You have to run very fast to be one step ahead with cybersecurity … if you want to survive.”

--- Check out Advisors ‘Lagging’ in Proper Insurance Against Cyberattacks on ThinkAdvisor.

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