Israel’s consul general, Ido Aharoni, told a New Jersey gathering of some 600 counterterrorism and law enforcement officials that his country is pioneering new weapons on the “modern battlefield” of war in the digital age.
He spoke March 18 at “Global Threats, Local Response,” a conference of the NJ Office of Homeland Security at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton.
Speaking broadly about its unique role in the multinational fight against terrorism, Aharoni said Israel “has had to develop innovative solutions to wide-ranging obstacles over time. The necessity to produce out-of-the-box solutions to national challenges — whether it’s in water resource technology, security, or agricultural sustainability — has led to an immense creative spirit making Israel one of the most innovative countries on earth.”
Concurrently, he said, “Israel has created a cybersecurity hub in the southern city of Be’er Sheva, where the academic, military, and private sectors are working together bringing Israel to the forefront of cybersecurity development.”
Noting that new forms of warfare are being fought with computers, Aharoni said that “it was necessary to protect information systems from theft, damage, or misuse of the services they provide.”
Recognition of Israel’s status as a leader in the development of such protective systems is widespread, said Aharoni. “As of today, 20 percent of all global investment in cybersecurity is being directed toward Israeli firms, and our country accounts for 10 percent of the global export of cybersecurity.”
Underscoring Aharoni’s emphasis on fighting cyberterrorism, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said that because “the nature of the security landscape is changing rapidly, it is more critical than ever before that we have a robust cybersecurity strategy that encompasses best practices of the public and private sectors.”
“One of the most challenging new frontiers isn’t necessarily a place we can find on a map,” said Booker; “it is in our homes, businesses, and schools. The new battleground is on-line.”
New Jersey “is lucky to be home to some of the most innovative and forward-thinking cybersecurity-focused companies in America,” and he expected “that between 2014 and 2019, the cybersecurity industry as a whole will double in size.”
He noted that much of what is known as the Port of New York is actually situated in Newark and Elizabeth, which is why New Jersey needs more — not less — federal funding for protection from terrorist attack. “New Jersey is home to what terrorism and security experts have referred to as ‘the most dangerous two miles in America’ — between Newark Airport and extending east of Port Elizabeth,” he said.
This situation, he explained, is the reason he told law enforcement and counterterrorism officials that he was troubled when the Federal Emergency Management Agency “decided to downgrade New Jersey’s threat score from a 10 to 9,” thus lessening the amount of federal funds being allocated to the state for its homeland security. We knew that this was unacceptable.”
So he reached out to FEMA officials, who restored the state’s threat score to 10 “to more accurately reflect our need for national security funding.”
Booker also said counterterrorism programs “at the local level that forge partnerships between community members, faith leaders, and law enforcement officials are so critical…. Keeping lines of communication open between New Jersey’s Muslim-American communities and the law enforcement officials that serve them is in all of our best interests,” said the senator.
Among other speakers at the conference were Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan; Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno; U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman; Lauren Steinberg, terrorism analyst at the Anti-Defamation League’s national office; and Garrett McKenzie, special agent in charge of Newark’s FBI office.