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Israel

Former Top Israeli Spy On Internet Risks To Privacy And Peace

The former chief of Israel's elite intelligence unit addresses a technology conference, waxing on privacy, cyber war and a new generation used to documenting and sharing everything.

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade
NSA headquarters in Fort Meade
NSA
Meir Orbach

TEL AVIV — When the intimate photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities were hacked and posted to the Internet in September, the entire concept of privacy may have be fundamentally transformed forever.

"All our activities are recorded and kept forever," Nadav Zafrir, former head of Israel's elite intelligence Unit 8200, said at last week's G300 conference organized by Calcalist and UBS. "And using Waze is a good example — someone always knows where you are. It's a real horrifying reality. If you don't want something made public, it must not be documented."

Zafrir is now co-founder of Team8 Cyber Security Venture Creation, which has mobilized $10 million that it plans to invest in cyber technology start-ups.

"Besides privacy, another characteristic of today's interconnected world is the threat of cyber war," Zafrir told conference attendees. "It's an additional dimension to contemporary warfare that used to be comprised of maritime, land and air. Only this one has no separation between military and civilian. For example, a serious cyber attack on Israel's Electric Corporation would be a serious hit to Israel."

He also referenced the hacking earlier this year of JP Morgan's 83 million bank accounts. "Cyber crimes are very common today, and such attacks can happen anywhere. We would need to create multi-layered defense systems to address this threat," he said.

"Alongside optic fibers that dramatically reduce the costs of transmitting information, and computing capabilities that have become much cheaper, we now hold in our hands mobile phones that are as powerful as the 1970s super-computers," Zafrir says. "Access to information is growing, and a phone connected to the Internet is now providing more
information than the U.S. president got from all his information agencies in the 1980s."

Zafrir also discussed the social impacts of technology and how children now are accustomed to documenting and sharing everything. "This is a generation that isn't concerned about its privacy," he said. "There is a real change in the consumption of information and our attitudes towards it. This is why the virtual Bitcoin could become the hard currency of this generation."

In addition to threats, Zafrir said, the cyber world also holds many opportunities for the future that are still unimaginable.


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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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