Cybersecurity: Another Dimension of the Strengthening Indo-Israel Partnership?

Cybersecurity possesses the capability to stand-out as an emerging field in the intensifying Indo-Israeli alliance. Since establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, Indo-Israeli cooperation has developed in areas that encompass agriculture, clean technologies, telecommunications, homeland security, and other crucial fields. In the globally inter-connected world, our cyberspace shows negligible concern for boundaries of nation-states, and so do grey and black-hat cyber warriors. Postulating cross-border cybersecurity partnerships is absolutely essential to secure public and private sectors of any given nation.

Cybersecurity is a premier field of interest for not only India and Israel, but globally; as technology is fused within our daily lives more than we could ever imagine. Computers are an integral tool for varied purposes such as banking, communicating, and other conveniences. If one walked into a room of an elite Indian or Israeli university today, it will not be surprising to find more computers than students! India and Israel are more connected than ever to networks of computing systems, and will continue to do so at an increasing pace.

Cyber-attacks in our networked world; have not only become more sophisticated but are also increasingly easier to conduct and extensively target individuals. Currently, such a prevalent trend makes India one of the leading victims of cyber-crime. Cyber criminals continue to successfully employ tactics that include phishing, war-driving, and other social engineering methods. Moreover, possible targets of today’s cyber-attacks include electric grids, water supply systems, telecommunications, financial networks, transportation networks, governmental/military networks, businesses ranging from start-ups to MNCs, and entities that heavily depend on computing power.

Israel’s expertise with innovation and technology can be seen across various fields of interest for Indian governmental/corporate entities and this fortitude of the ‘Start-up Nation’ undoubtedly extends into the field of cybersecurity. Israel unquestionably possesses the potential to develop and deploy an array of offensive and defensive cyber capabilities. For instance, Israeli innovation and technology is acknowledged with the inception of the ‘firewall’ safeguarding networks in our cyberspace.

An illustration of Israel’s powerful cyber capabilities can be accounted from the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks initiated by the hacktivist-group Anonymous. #Op Israel threatened to paralyze numerous governmental and financial websites across the country, but had negligible success in penetrating Israel’s cyber-defenses. However, the true highlight of #Op Israel was Israel’s counter-offensive ability to take-down an Anonymous server, which apparently was a major source of DDoS attacks. Surviving a wave of colossal cyber-attacks undeniably endorse Israel’s position as a cybersecurity leader, and as an ideal partner, to catalyze India’s offensive/defensive cyber capabilities.

Israel’s innovation and technology in the cybersecurity arena are truly captivating. However, India could also gain by replicating definite elements of Israel’s cybersecurity ecosystem, and adapt, in-accordance with its respective needs. Israel’s cybersecurity domain is extremely security-aware and constantly evolves as cyber-threats evolve. A recent change affecting Israel’s cybersecurity ecosystem promotes participation by numerous actors via infusing a mélange of the governmental sector, leading corporate companies, and academia. Developing full-proof security solutions requires analyzing the cyber-domain through diverse perspectives; and the addition of academia provides remarkable flexibility to the existing cyber structure. Moreover, the fusion of these different sectors possesses the capacity to heighten transparency and cooperation with regards to cybersecurity.

Alternatively, numerous governmental agencies along with the enthusiastic private sector have fostered great support, and have inspired start-ups to play an increasing role in Israel’s cybersecurity ecosystem. On a global scale, Israel has one of the highest numbers of start-ups per capita. The “Start-up Culture” is Israel’s contagious source of innovation, and it persuades talented entrepreneurs to construct highly interesting products. Certain Israeli start-ups have developed ground-breaking solutions that have subsequently propelled these firms to be leaders in cybersecurity; and the start-up arena looks extremely promising! Integration of start-ups, in-addition to the existing public-private sector collaboration enables a unique perspective; especially in a country like Israel. Insights from Israel’s cybersecurity ecosystem are excellent lessons for India to shape its developing cybersecurity ecosystem!

In current times, the greatest prospect for cybersecurity relations between India and Israel crops-up in the corporate world. India’s cybersecurity firms, face a monumental challenge to tackle cyber-threats linked with integrating computers into India’s enormous infrastructure. However, challenges in the cyber-world translate into an outstanding opportunity for Indian cybersecurity companies to jointly develop innovative products with Israeli entrepreneurs. Israel’s reputation and competence in building first-class cybersecurity products could greatly benefit Indian counterparts in mitigating cyber-threats faced by India’s critical infrastructure. On the flipside, India’s own way of innovation, “jugaad” can facilitate an exchange of fresh ideas with Israeli entrepreneurs. Cybersecurity has provided extensive openings for Indian and Israeli corporate sectors to initiate dialogue and explore potential collaboration.

India’s infrastructure continues to digitize at an astounding pace and numerous market segments are flowing with opportunity. For example, huge multinational firms such as Samsung and Apple, along with other minor companies, are fuelling the demand for smartphones in the Indian market. A sharp rise in demand for smartphones means that Indian users will increasingly connect to the internet; but this naturally increments cyber-associated vulnerabilities on a massive scale. Israel is capable of providing innovative cybersecurity solutions, whereas India possesses the gigantic market. But beyond product development, and investment prospects, booming opportunities for Indo-Israeli cybersecurity synergy can drastically advance cybersecurity cooperation, and promote bilateral economic ties.

In 2012, India and Israel agreed to a program to promote joint research with regards to cybersecurity. However, in addition to research, more meaningful steps need to be initiated by India’s major and minor players, to establish cooperation with Israel in the crucial field of cybersecurity. Only through building strategic partnerships, will Israel’s proven leadership in the cybersecurity arena have fruitful outcomes for the Indian public and private sectors. In addition to the business interaction, India has a fabulous opportunity to learn, adapt, and incorporate elements from Israel’s evolving cybersecurity ecosystem. The strengths of two great nations, India and Israel, must merge to mitigate weaknesses in the cyber-domain. Cybersecurity undoubtedly possesses the potential to accentuate as another facet of the ever-growing alliance between India and Israel.