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Israel concerned about foreign cyber interference ahead of fresh election round

Updated: Aug 17, 2022

According to an Israeli journalist, the Shin Bet has approached Russia with a request to avoid meddling in the campaign

Israel’s coalition leaders during the vote to dissolve the Knesset, June 2022. Photo: DPA via REUTERS
Israel’s coalition leaders during the vote to dissolve the Knesset, June 2022. Photo: DPA via REUTERS

The Israeli Security Agency (ISA, better known as the Shin Bet), has recently approached its Russian counterparts with a request to avoid meddling in the upcoming Israeli elections. This, according to prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit, who penned a piece on the matter in the Ma’ariv daily last week.

On November 1st, Israelis will be going to the polls once again, for the 5th time in only 3.5 years. Whether the divided country will finally be able to achieve some political stability is on everyone’s minds. But on the way there, many challenges must be overcome – including the cyber threat.

“There are two types of threats on elections when it comes to the cyber dimension: hacking the very systems Israel is using in the elections, (and) using social networks to spread false information and affect public opinion,” Prof. Col. Gabi Siboni, Director of the Military & Strategic Affairs and Cyber Security Programs at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said in an interview to Media Line.

The cyber threat is, of course, nothing new – neither in Israel or worldwide. It is safe to assume that there has not been a single election campaign in recent years that did not face this challenges, with reasons ranging from attempts to change a certain country’s regime to financial gains and attempts to subvert democracy and create chaos.

The biggest threats Israel faces from state-sponsored actors are from Russia and Iran.

Caspit recalls that prior to 2019, then-director of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, said that a “foreign power” would try and influence the voting, adding that he is “100% sure that a foreign state will intervene…I just don’t know in whose favor.”

And news is not good from the top, either. In late June, Israeli State Comptroller Matanyahu Engelman warned that “significant deficiencies” were found in the Central Elections Committee’s preparedness for cyber threats.

“We all live in a global Big Brother show,” added Engelman. “We are exposed. Citizens of the world have no protection. Our data is exposed to too many people.”

The Central Elections Committee rejected Engelman’s accusations, saying that many of the impairments he mentioned were already fixed in 2000 and adding that his words would only encourage additional attacks.

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