Middle East Needs Regional NATO for Cyber Defense, Margalit Says

  • States can’t protect themselves alone, says cyber investor
  • Some regional cooperation already exists on civilian level

Erel Margalit

Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Middle Eastern countries facing potential cyber attacks from Iran should form a Euro-Med alliance to protect their assets and people, said Erel Margalit, venture capitalist and former member of the Israeli Knesset’s cyber security task force.

“In the Mideast it isn’t Arabs against Jews, it’s extremists against those countries that want to protect their civilians and be practical,” Margalit said Wednesday at the Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv. “It’s the alliance of the moderates.”

Margalit, who served on the parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee, said that a year ago, hackers likely financed by Iran used a computer virus to infiltrate a ThyssenKrupp shipyard to steal blueprints of submarines being built for Israel. He also said Iranian Revolutionary Guard strike groups try to hit Israeli nuclear researchers and civilian infrastructure almost every day.

Attacks aren’t just against Israel. In May, Qatari officials said the state-owned news agency had been hacked to plant a fake story containing controversial statements attributed to the country’s emir. In 2016, a cyber strike disabled thousands of government computers in Saudi Arabia.

There’s already some under-the-radar cooperation on a civilian level between Israel and Arab nations, Margalit said. He suggested nations in the Mediterranean region and Europe set up a forum -- similar to a WhatsApp chat group -- to alert each other to cyber attacks in real time.

“How valuable is that?” said Margalit, whose Jerusalem Venture Partners started Israel’s first cyber security incubator in Beersheva in 2013.

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