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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
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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China

How China's Mass Protest Took The World By Surprise — And Where It Will End

China is facing its biggest political protests in decades as frustration grows with its harsh Zero-COVID strategy. However, the real reasons for the protests run much deeper. Could it be the starting point for a new civic movement?

Photo of police during protests in China against covid-19 restrictions

Security measures during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions

Changren Zheng

In just one weekend, protests spread across China. A fire in an apartment block in Urumqi in China’s western Xinjiang region killed 10, with many blaming lockdown rules for the deaths. Anti-lockdown demonstrations spread to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and other cities. University students from more than half of China's provinces organized various protests against COVID restrictions.

Why and how did the movement spread so rapidly?

At the core, protesters are unhappy with President Xi Jinping's three-year-long Zero-COVID strategy that has meant mass testing, harsh lockdowns, and digital tracking. Yet, the general belief about the Chinese people was that they lacked the awareness and experience for mass political action. Even though discontent had been growing about the Zero-COVID strategy, no one expected these protests.

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