September 22, 2017

Dr. Eviatar Matania, the director general of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate,  visited SIPA on September 15 to discuss “Cyber Security in a Global Context.” In a conversation with Dean Merit E. Janow of SIPA and Jeanette Wing, director of Columbia’s Data Science Institute, Matiana spoke about the evolution, future and emergent challenges of cybersecurity in Israel.

Matiana, who has led the cybersecurity agency since it was created six years ago, said the National Cyber Directorate was charged with “preparing a comprehensive cyber security strategy for the nation” and “building Israel’s capacity” to be a world leader in in cybersecurity.

Matania said his team developed a new defense strategy framework for Israel and recommended that the government not only adopt the strategy but establish a new authority that would be solely responsible for Israel’s cyber domain.

“Given our interesting neighborhood, we need to be a regional power” and a world power, Matania said.

He emphasized the importance of being at the forefront of cyber security if Israel is to accomplish this goal.

Matania and the directorate have been instrumental in establishing and helping to fund a network of six cyber research centers at the major Israeli universities. Research and education, he said, are key to building a strong bulwark against cyber threats.

“We were instructed to build Israeli capacity—meaning technology, research, and the ecosystem of media, industry and human capital—so even in 20 years we remain a global power within cyber,” he said. “This has a lot to do with research. You need your universities to be cyber research centers.”

Wing asked if there is a clear distinction between attacks and attackers when a cybercrime is committed, and how that influences the bureau’s focus. Matania said it had become increasingly difficult to attribute a cyber-attack to a specific entity, and that his first response is just to defend Israel and contain and mitigate the impact of the attack.

Given that cybersecurity is still a relatively new enterprise, Matania said, it is very important to identify who should be held accountable for the cyber defense of the nation.

“We need centralization and accountability, and we are building our technological capacity,” he said.

Matania also addressed the issue of ever-evolving technology and the emergence of more sophisticated mediums like artificial intelligence that might pose a greater threat in the future.

“Cyberspace is growing, one of the challenges that might escalate everything about cyber is IOT,” meaning the Internet of things, he said. “We haven’t yet solved the problem of reconciling the organizational and national level. The next step would need to address what we need to do globally.”

In his bid for a more cohesive effort Matania also stated that it was important to collaborate with private corporations like Facebook and Akamai, a company that operates a significant cloud computing network.

In conclusion, Matania said, Israel will ensure a safer cyber future by creating awareness coupled with an alert private sector and citizenry. He said the country’s administration can extend safeguards by recommending that citizens keep their data safe and sharing pertinent intelligence information with organizations that might be vulnerable but at the end of the day to achieve their goals organizations need to exercise responsibility.

In her opening remarks, Dean Janow emphasized Columbia’s strong engagement with cybersecurity, highlighting the accomplishments of the Data Science Institute and its substantial collaboration with SIPA. She also underscored SIPA’s “robust engagement” with cybersecurity and other issues related to technology and policy.

The event was co-sponsored by the Columbia Data Science Institute and SIPA’s Tech and Policy Initiative.

— Neha Sharma MPA ’18

< Merit Janow, Eviatar Matania, Jeanette Wing