Quantum computing is the next revolution, Israeli cyber expert says | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


Former Israeli intelligence commando and cyber expert Nadav Zafrir spoke to Al-Monitor’s Ben Caspit yesterday on the future of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI). 

Zafrir commanded the Israel Defense Forces’ elite intelligence unit 8200, which has been described as an “incubator” for Israel’s world-leading high tech scene. In 2014, he left the military to start the cyber company Team8, which works to find solutions in the fields of cybersecurity, AI and data. The firm also has a powerful venture capital fund. 

Caspit began the podcast by discussing the string of deadly attacks on Israelis by Palestinians in recent weeks. Many of the attackers appear to be unaffiliated with armed groups. Zafrir acknowledged this has created an “almost unprecedented challenge,” but added that the Israeli security apparatus has also thwarted numerous attacks using intelligence. 

“The more we can deploy machine learning and AI to the edge, the more we will be able to protect, to mitigate … to make our neighbors’ lives better,” said Zafrir. 

Zafrir pointed outed that using technology to thwart attacks is in some ways more challenging than conducting cyberattacks on enemies. 

“On offense, you only need to be right once. On defense, you need to be right all the time,” he said. Zafrir added that counter-terrorism operations need to deal with various legal aspects, whereas offensive operations are relatively less constrained. 

Iran has accused Israel on many occasions of conducting cyberattacks on its infrastructure. 

The increasing amount of data available digitally is also making it harder to protect against attacks, according to Zafrir. 

“It’s not that offense is getting better than defense. Billions of connections between people and devices are skyrocketing, creating a big footprint that makes attackers’ lives easier and defense harder,” he said. “You can’t protect against everything. You need to prioritize, and there will be breaches.” 

Caspit and Zafrir also discussed the so-called darknet, or harder-to-access online networks often used for privacy, avoiding government surveillance, and illegal activity, among other purposes. 

Zafrir said that on the macro level, governments need to call cyber crime “what it is,” meaning they should treat such acts as they would crimes committed in the physical world. 

Overall, Zafrir expressed optimism in the future of digitalization, pointing to the number of entities worldwide that successfully switched to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Try to think about COVID-19 without the digital infrastructure that we’ve put together in the last 20 years,” he said. “We would’ve been in a much worse situation.”

At the same time, Zafrir criticized companies who are continuing to operate 100% remotely. 

“We need to come back to physical interactions. Businesses that decided to go remote full-time will have a big problem,” he said. “When you want to do new things with new people, remote and digital does not work.” 

Zafrir also noted people’s increased access to services via digital means and the internet. In the Middle East in particular, access to financial tools is greatly expanding with the rise of financial technology. 

The tech executive also acknowledged the downsides to things moving to the digital realm, saying “privacy is at stake.”

Israel is at the center of the global debate surrounding privacy and internet surveillance by governments. The Israeli company Pegasus is notorious for its technology that has been used by the governments of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others to spy on citizens. 

The discussion also touched on quantum computing, by which computers run using quantum theory. 

“Nobody knows when quantum computing will become a reality, but when it does, our lives will never look the same,” said Zafrir. He predicted that quantum computing could help cure cancer and determine whether there are other life forms in the universe. 

Zafrir is not alone in this assessment. Quantum computers are already being used for advanced cancer research, for example. 

Such technology needs regulatory systems that are “descriptive,” he said. Governments need to indicate “what outcomes are unacceptable” with regards to quantum computing, AI and other endeavors, according to Zafrir. 

“I don’t know what will happen in 50 years, but in the foreseeable future, we will still have control of these machines,” he said. 

Zafrir dismissed the Hollywood-esque possibility that machines could start independently feeding themselves electricity, for example. 

“Who knows what our children will invent,” he added. 

You can listen to the full interview here. 





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