Britain is strengthening its already close ties with Israel to combat the threat posed by cyber criminals and terrorists.
Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, who is responsible for the government’s cyber security strategy, said the two countries had “set up a joint academic research fund over three years. We’ve put in one million pounds and that will be matched by the Israeli government.”
He said the project would mean the UK could “collaborate much more effectively with many universities in Israel, such as the Technion in Haifa, which have serious technical capacity.”
Under the scheme, Israeli academics will carry out research at major UK institutes such as Oxford University’s Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre, which was opened last year.
Mr Maude believes much can be learned from Israel’s expertise in the field.
He remarked that, “Israel has a great deal to offer in cyber security. We’ve got a lot to learn from the country.”
He cited how Israel was dealing with the worldwide cyber skills shortage. “The way Israeli schools bring in former military signals [intelligence] staff to train and inspire the next generation of computer science teachers is something we could also reproduce in the UK.”
The threat governments face from cyber criminals ranges from taking control of single person’s computer, to destroying the systems which control a country’s water, transportation or energy infrastructure.
The discovery of the so-called Stuxnet virus in 2010, which targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities, was one of the first examples of a major cyber attack against a country.
Mr Maude said close co-operation in cyber security was a natural expression of the strong trade and technology links between the UK and Israel.
“The threat posed by cyber terrorism and cyber crime is not national, it’s international and flows across borders. It’s essential to collaborate with all countries but Israel is one of the closest relationships we have,” he said.
He also reserved particular praise for Israel’s Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, calling him a “hugely impressive individual” after meeting him last year.
Mr Maude also held talks with Israel’s new National Cyber Bureau chief, Eviatar Matania.