Former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro’s Address to the 5th Annual International Cybersecurity Conference, Tel Aviv University

Good morning, Professor Ben Israel, Dr. Eviatar Matania, and distinguished guests.  I am delighted to be here and I want to thank the many organizers of this event, including Tel Aviv University and our colleagues from the National Cyber Bureau and the Prime Minister’s Office.

It is a privilege to be addressing the 5th Annual International Cybersecurity Conference for many reasons.  First, I consider it a real honor to have the chance to speak before such an impressive group of experts and policy makers in the field of cybersecurity.  Many of you in this room are directly responsible for – or have contributed to – the impressive growth of Israel’s cyber industry and associated technologies.

It is also an opportunity to draw attention to the great progress that has been made in the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship on cyber issues over these past five years.   During this period, great attention has been focused on cyber issues the world over by governments, the private sector, civil society and the media.  Certainly in both the United States and Israel our respective governments have created new mechanisms, policies, and agencies to better manage our engagement on cyber issues and responses to cyber threats.

The United States and Israel are natural partners in working together on cyber issues due to our shared values and our open and democratic societies, as well as the extraordinary talent and innovation of our technical communities.  Today, I want to draw attention to a number of ways in which we are cooperating in the cyber and internet field.

First, we are exchanging information on how to best strengthen both nations’ national security and protect ourselves from cyber threats.  Second, both countries are promoting investment in cyber and the protection of our digital infrastructure to create an enabling environment for further growth in the information technology industry.  And finally, we look to partner with Israel to ensure freedom of expression on the internet.  I will address each of these matters in turn.

Concerning security, U.S.-Israel cooperation on cyber issues, like our robust partnership in so many other areas, is critical to ensuring the national security of both our countries.  Both the United States and Israel are among the world’s top targets of cyber-attacks, which emanate from foreign governments, terrorist groups, and criminal organizations.  And not just our governments are targets, but also our private sector firms.  To respond to these threats, there is a rich and mutually beneficial dialogue between our government experts that facilitates the sharing of information on cyber threats. Working together to build and implement the policies, mechanisms, and tools necessary to protect our cyber infrastructure is essential to defend ourselves against those who would threaten and seek to injure us.

As an example, Dr. Eviatar Matania just visited the United States this month and the State Department’s cyber coordinator Christopher Painter is a regular visitor to Israel.  Many other U.S. leaders in cyber policy, such as the Department of Homeland Security, are in regular contact with their Israeli counterparts.  Both sides enjoy an ongoing and ever deepening dialogue and information exchange on the dynamic and rapidly evolving cyber issues.

Both governments have also taken steps to organize themselves to respond to cyber challenges and opportunities.  For instance, the 2009 establishment by the U.S. Department of Defense of its Cyber Command was a clear acknowledgement of the need to centralize cyberspace operations, integrate cyber expertise, and synchronize networks.  As such, I take note of the recent announcement by the IDF to establish a Cyber Corps.  I am confident that the creation of the IDF’s Cyber Corps will allow for even more opportunities for bilateral cooperation between our military cyber experts.

My government has recently taken some additional steps to protect U.S. security and punish cyber perpetrators.  In April, President Obama signed an executive order directing the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on individuals or entities that engage in significant malicious cyber-enabled activities that pose a threat to the national security of the United States.  And, in response to the recent breach of information at the Office of Personnel Management, which has exposed the data of millions of current and former federal employees, the White House stated last week that imposing such sanctions against those found to be responsible is absolutely “on the table.”

It is incidents such as these that propel the United States to work with partners to strengthen the capacity of governments to ensure their cybersecurity.  We are working to help partner countries develop national strategies and policies, incident response mechanisms, and other measures to ensure they can defend their networks.  We also work with other countries to help us combat cybercrime.  An important basis for facilitating international cooperation in this field is the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, which seeks to harmonize national laws, improve investigative techniques, and increase cooperation among nations.  My government looks forward to Israel’s ratification of the Convention in the near future.

Next, I wish to stress that partnerships on cyber issues not only keep our countries safer – they also drive our economies through job creation, innovation, and protecting the critical infrastructure that helps businesses work together.  And so I want to applaud and express my deep appreciation for all of you here today that are involved in expanding the robust and active private sector commercial interactions between our two countries.  It is clear that the cybersecurity sector offers enormous economic opportunities.

Just last month I spent a full day in Be’er Sheva visiting with Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, President Rivka Carmi and the leading cyber researchers of Ben Gurion University, IDF officials, and many private sector representatives who are busy creating one of the world’s most important high-tech centers for cyber security.  I was impressed by the synergies that are being created through the co-location of cyber experts in academia, the private sector, and the military, with the strong support of the municipality.

In January, the Brandeis University International Business School published its research ranking Be’er Sheva as the first out of seven global cities forecast to emerge as an important high-tech center of the future.  I think that is exactly right, and I would predict that in 5-10 years, and maybe even less, the entire world will think of Be’er Sheva as a global leader in the cyber industry – so much so, that many leading firms, including American companies, may soon discover that they cannot afford not to have a presence in Be’er Sheva.

I visited the CyberSpark technology center in Be’er Sheva and spoke with employees of CyActive – an Israeli cybersecurity firm just recently acquired by PayPal in the first major exit of a tech startup from the technology park.  This successful company is just one of hundreds.  Last year Israeli exports of cyber-related products and services reached $6 billion dollars – second only to the United States.  Confident investors have poured more than $500 million into Israeli cybersecurity startups in the past few years.  Israel is truly a global cyber incubator.  And both our countries stand to benefit enormously from this rapidly growing field.

Now, businesses thrive when they can work together over an open and secure internet.  This is one of the central pillars of our international strategy for cyberspace – and one for which we continue to seek partners to ensure that the internet is a stable, multi-stakeholder environment in which all users have a seat at the table, not just a place where governments set the rules.

Think, for example, of what would happen if every country imposed data localization requirements, causing information to halt and undergo inspection whenever it reached a national border.  Imagine the negative consequences for commerce and to the free flow of information, which would complicate a task as simple as searching online for the answer to a trivia question.  The delays would create huge obstacles to multinational business at a time when speed is of the essence and cross-border enterprises are major engines of growth.  That is not a formula for progress; it is a way to stop progress in its tracks.  I expect the United States and Israel to continue to work as partners and leaders to protect the internet as an open, secure, and reliable tool that supports global economic prosperity.

Yet, viewing the internet and cyberspace as tools for economic growth is not all we strive for.  A vital part of our cyber policy is protecting internet freedom.  We want the internet to be an open, global space for freedom of expression.  Even as we continue to promote human rights worldwide and actively oppose those wishing to deny them, threats to online freedom continue to grow.  Nearly half of the two billion internet users around the world live in countries that impose restrictions on content.

Our goal is to ensure that everyone the world over has access to the internet as an open platform in which they may innovate, learn, and exchange ideas freely.  The benefits of networked technology—our ability to work across the internet—should not be reserved to a privileged few nations, or a privileged few within them.  We must pursue a cyberspace that is open to innovation, interoperable worldwide, secure enough to earn peoples’ trust, and reliable enough to support their work.  We must also pursue policies that seek to ensure the security of our governments, firms, and citizens.  As I have said, Israel is a natural partner for all these goals.

Thirty years ago, few understood that something called the internet would lead to a revolution in how we work and live.  In that short time, millions now owe their livelihoods to the world of cyberspace.

We look forward to working with Israel to move towards a future of an open and secure internet.  And a future in which the internet protects the security and privacy of those individuals and entities who use it.

The United States and Israel continuing to cooperate on these issues makes eminent sense—for our national security, our economic prosperity, and our shared commitment to protect the freedom of expression of people across the planet.

Thank you so much for inviting me to speak here today.