Leave the hackers alone
Op-ed: Instead of pursuing computer geeks, Israel should improve information security
Imagine the following comic scenario: After a lengthy secret probe, the special Israeli taskforce manages to track the hacker
who breached thousands of Israeli bank accounts. Together with a local police force, the taskforce raids an isolated home on the outskirts of Mexico City, Mumbai or San Francisco and nabs the dangerous criminal: A 15-year-old computer genius who was a little bored and took advantage of the fact that his parents were away on vacation in order to have some fun with the laptop.
The Internet changed the world, and not always in ways we like: One of them is the new cyber crimes. These require, among other things, a new kind of investigation methodology, with current probes always being one step behind the hackers.
The notion of pursuing criminals is very tempting. However, it dates back to the romantic age where these were indeed criminals, rather than pimpled geniuses who can bring down a bank or an insurance company without getting out of bed, only because they see it as a sort of challenge.
We should also not play dumb: I can only guess that the State of Israel
itself utilizes quite a few hackers, who at this very moment sit in front of the screen and do everything in order to thwart these and other activities. They are not criminals or offenders, but rather, operate on behalf of the State, just like overseas agents used to operate once upon a time.
So instead of wasting time and resources in chasing ghosts, it would be better to improve our information security. Israel is home to some of the world’s leading companies in this field and the government can engage their good services in order to protect itself and its citizens.
And how will we find the budget for this new activity? We shall frighten the ministers a little using a familiar tactic: Define the hackers as “terrorists” and the breaching of computers as a “threat to national security.” This will pave the way for establishing the new “Internet security authority,” with a hefty budget, plethora of jobs, directors and deputies, just the way we like it.
Will all of this help? Apparently not. The singe hacker will always be more sophisticated, determined and hungrier than any apparatus set up late in order to nab him. Yet we’ll at least be able to tell ourselves that we did everything to protect ourselves.