Find the Cracks in the Deck Before the Stormy Sea Finds Them

Years ago I knew a man who owned a little yacht. He was a technically capable man who carried out all the maintenance and upgrade jobs on his boat. He once told me that whenever he completed a job that could have affected the water tightness of his boat, like replacing the toe rails protecting the seam between the deck and the topsides, or replacing the old cabin portholes with new ones, he would get a hose and direct a high pressure water jet from every conceivable direction at the area on which he had worked. During a storm, he explained, the sea will be searching any weakness, the tiniest of cracks, to penetrate the deck, cause damage and risk the boat. He preferred to find the cracks himself in the safety of the harbour than let the waves find them at sea.

The recent unexplained crash of Israeli government and security websites, and the unbearable ease in which a Saudi hacker managed to obtain the details of tens of thousands of Israeli credit card holders from commercial and business computer systems, raises obvious concerns regarding the security of much more critical computer systems on which Israel’s national security is dependent. A coordinated, all-out attack that could come from any direction during a war could have disastrous consequences.

A well known monthly magazine dedicates a few pages each month to reviewing  a new vehicle that was just introduced into the market. When the article gets to security issues, I always raise an eyebrow when I read something like: “Our security expert broke into the vehicle in 7 seconds.”  Just like with the boat and the sea – it is much preferred to have the magazine’s security expert expose the ease in which the vehicle can be broken into than to let the car thief do that.

If this had not been done yet – Israel’s security establishment must direct backwards some of the brains currently busy breaking into the enemy’s computer systems so that they aim their fire at Israel’s defence computer systems and use any means they have to break into them and expose their weaknesses. Their findings must be translated immediately to remedial actions. If there are any weak security spots, it is better to have this group find them before someone else does.

All this does not of course protect highly secret data held on computers from pathetic moles like the Israeli soldier Anat Kam who served with the IDF’s Central Command and passed highly confidential data to a journalist, or the American soldier Bradley Manning who leaked huge volumes of secret transmissions to Wikileaks. The name Mordechai Vaanunu also rises in one’s memory. In Abie Nathan’s coffee shop ‘California’ in Tel-Aviv there was a sign which said: “In God we trust – all others please pay cash”. Perhaps this approach should be applied to anybody who is exposed to top secret data.

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