The United States and Israel unveiled a new cybersecurity partnership on Monday aimed at “stopping adversaries in networks and identifying ways to hold bad actors responsible,” according to White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.
Bossert announced the “Israeli-U.S. bilateral cyber working group” at the opening of the Cyber Week 2017 conference in Tel Aviv.
The group, which will meet this week, will be led by Rob Joyce, the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator, and Eviatar Matania, the director general of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate. Members will include an unspecified number of representatives from across the U.S. and Israeli military, criminal justice and foreign relations establishments.
Joyce previously ran the U.S. National Security Agency’s Tailored Access Operations (NSA TAO), the spy agency’s offensive division. Matania has helped shape Israeli cybersecurity policy for the past several years but has a private sector pedigree that includes tech and venture capital.
“The meetings this week will focus on a range of cyber issues,” Bossert said. “Critical infrastructure, advanced R&D, international cooperation, and workforce.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the conference that Israel attracts “about 20 percent of the global private cyber security investment around the world.”
In 2014, Matania estimated that number was closer to 5 percent to 10 percent.
“Once it was a disadvantage to say you are from Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Today when you talk about cyber or advanced technologies, it is an advantage. It is advantage to say ‘I am an Israeli company.'”
Veterans of Israel’s Unit 8200 have gone on to start many of the country’s top cybersecurity firms including NSO Group, an offensive hacking firm that’s up for sale at a price tag above $1 billion. NSO Group sells its wares to, among other countries, Arab nations.
“There used to be a thing called the Arab boycott,” Netanyahu said. “That’s dissipating, for many, many reasons: strategic and the prominence of Israel in the technological field.”
Israeli media reports that the new agreement will, among other points, make it easier for Israeli cybersecurity companies to sell to the U.S. government.
Israeli-U.S. cooperation in cyberspace extends back over the last decade. It is widely reported that Stuxnet, the malware used to attack Iran’s nuclear program, was developed by American and Israeli hackers. There are precious few details about the extent of the partnership announced Monday, but it appears to be a formalization — and possibly acceleration or expansion — of relationships that already exist.
The White House did not respond to a request for further details on the group including specific names of participants.