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U.S. Security Chief Sees Danger in Israel’s Cisco Digital Plan

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- Israel’s plan to allow Cisco Systems Inc. to turn the country digital with a super-fast fiber-optic network may compromise national security if precautions aren’t taken, a U.S. security chief said.

“There is national security and innovation and you have to find the right balance,” said Paul de Souza, chief executive officer of the Washington-headquartered Cyber Security Forum Initiative, a non-profit organization to assist the government, military and industry, said in an interview in Tel Aviv. “You can’t compromise national security just because you want the country to be extremely innovative.”

Cisco will make Israel the world’s first fully digital country with a fiber-optic network being built for Israel Electric Corp. to serve multiple requirements, showcasing technology that other nations may adopt, John Chambers, chief executive officer of the San Jose, California-based company, said last month.

Chambers said that Cisco was committed to securing the network and would train and attract “the best there is in security on a global basis.” The company also created a technology incubator in Israel for cyberdefense startups.

“The government of Israel and Cisco are still working on a plan that will give solutions for all needs that arise,” Cisco said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Zombie Threat

Cisco should cooperate with local information security companies and integrate their technology to protect the new network, said De Souza, a former chief security engineer for AT&T Inc. with more than 14 years of experience in cyberdefense.

“At the end of the day, you want a network to have layers of security and a certain layer of complexity to make it harder for people to penetrate it,” he said.

Failure to do so could allow criminals or terrorists to “harvest millions of zombies,” he said, referring to computers that are compromised so they can be remotely controlled. “Imagine Israel with millions of zombies that have super capability and can bring down countries.”

“Not only can these computers attack Israel itself, but they can at the same time use Israel as a way to attack other countries in the whole false flag thing and put the blame on Israel,” De Souza said.

The new Israeli network will compete with Hot Telecommunication System Ltd. and Bezeq The Israeli Telecommunication Corp. and will eventually serve as the backbone for electricity, television, health care and even education, Chambers said in June.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

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