Israel Defence Ministry admits easing export rules on ‘offensive cyber weapons’

Israel Defence Ministry admits easing export rules on ‘offensive cyber weapons’

Jerusalem: The Israel Defence Ministry has approved the sale of offensive cyber weapons across the globe, including the Gulf nations. The decision was followed by Israel’s Finance Ministry informing on the establishment of an independent division for handling the exports of cyber technologies. A few years ago, Israel was alleged to have developed a computer virus known as the Stuxnet, which was used to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. Given the developments, the Israel Defence Ministry’s ease of rules for the export of cyber weapons could be a cause for significant upheavals in the future.

A few days ago, ‘Market Forecast’, a defence research group, had published a report on the world market for cyber weapons. The report states that the demand for offensive cyber armaments used in cyberattacks would cross $10 billion in the next decade. Also, Israel is enlisted in the top five countries that develop offensive cyber weapons in the market.

The Israeli companies, NSO Group, Verint and Elbit Systems are recognised as the leading suppliers of weapons for cyber attacks. Severe restrictions had been imposed on them along with certain other Israeli companies from the cybersecurity sector for the sale of cyber weapons in certain countries. Sources indicate that the eased restrictions enable the Israeli companies a more effective and speedier sale of cyber weapons to other countries.

Although the companies were granted the freedom to sign deals for the sale of cyber weapons with other countries, acquiring an export permit has been made mandatory. Sources further claimed that the license would be issued only after approval from the Defence and Finance Ministry. Additionally, the Finance Ministry has set up an independent division for the purpose, and the ministry spokesperson said that it was a part of internal reforms.

Since the last decade, cyberwar has come to the fore and emerged as a critical matter. Furthermore, data has surfaced revealing that the leading countries in the world were assaulting one another with cyberattacks. They include the United States, Israel and the European countries along with China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Among them, the intelligence agencies of the United States, Russia, China and Israel have adopted aggressive policies for the preparation of a cyberwar.

The United States has established an independent Cyber Command which has been authorised to develop and use cyberweapons. The Chinese and Russian agencies are consistently carrying out cyberattacks on the United States and European countries and involve the use of cyberweapons on a large scale. The Stuxnet virus that had been jointly developed by Israel and the United States was used as a cyber weapon to attack an Iranian nuclear facility. Thousands of centrifuges at the nuclear facility were left ineffective as a result of the attack. For a long period, Iran was not even aware that the nuclear facility was under a cyberattack. The repercussions of the episode were felt all over the world.

Given the background, Israel’s decision on the rule change for the export of offensive cyber weapons becomes significant. Analysts, as also leaders of prominent nations, have now begun to warn against the cyberspace turning into a future battlefield. In such times,  the change in Israel’s policy on cyber weapons in the market makes its evolution apparent.

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