Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Does Israel Have Anything Like NSA? Part I: The Walls Have Ears

by Amir Rappaport

Have you wondered lately how Israelis would react to an intelligence gathering apparatus like NSA? This is the first of a three-part article addressing Israel's approach to the balance between security and privacy.

Part I: The Walls Have Ears

The walls can't talk yet, but in Israel they can certainly hear:  in recent months, innocent looking security cameras have become sophisticated and sensitive recording machines. Along with the development of these cameras, there is also an Israeli project that will make it possible to listen to hundreds of thousands of hours of recordings, which will enable a computer automatically to identify suspicious conversations that might reveal the plans of some terror organization.

The closest thing to "Big Brother": security apparatuses are investing millions of shekels using local hi-tech companies to develop sophisticated algorithms that will be able to distinguish "material of interest" from the flood of information circulating in the Internet and cellular telephones. The emails
circulating in the net can be scanned by totally automatic tools as well.

The end of the age of innocence: the consternation that has gripped the American public as a result of the leaks (and the government's acknowledgment) that the intelligence services in the US snoop into the citizens' private information, might arouse, at most, a chuckle among the Israeli intelligence community - what is thought of there as a dramatic and controversial development is taken for granted in Israel. Almost.

Israel is a world leader in the development of intelligence technology. There is much more than a grain of truth in the reports this week in the US that advanced Israeli technology is used by intelligence apparatuses to carry out mass wiretapping of citizens. Regarding this, Shabtai Shavit, the former head of the Mossad, says, "Necessity is the mother of invention". "The need to identify signs that point to attacks has led us to develop intelligence tools that are in the forefront of world technology."

Shavit is currently the head of the "Athena" company (a part of the Mer Group) that deals with the development of intelligence tools in the world of "free text" on the Internet. From the point of view of world espionage services, the task of extracting information from unlimited verbiage that is not arranged in pre-defined "search fields" is considered especially complex.

Since he concluded his service as head of the Mossad in the mid-90s, says Shavit, the field of intelligence has totally changed. "If you compare the quantity of information that was transferred in the era of the telex and the fax to the quantity of information that flows today in the era of the Internet, smart phones and ipads - why, it was like a drop in the ocean
at that time. Today, people create an endless amount of information in regions that cover the world from end to end. The challenge is to distinguish the relevant information from within this flood,  in real time. It must need any additional processing - because by then it would only be useful as archive material."

Read Part II: Deciphering Code Words

Amir Rappaport

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav

Next Installment - Part II: Deciphering Code Words 

Source: Makor Rishon Newspaper, Issue 827, Yoman section, pg. 10

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

1 comment:

A British Friend of Israel said...

The UK has had an equivalent to the NSA since well before the State of Israel was established.

During World War 2 it was called the Government code & Cypher School (GCCS) in order to camouflage its true purpose, and was based at Bletchley Park. From there the Nazi codes were broken and a mass of vital signals intelligence was received and decoded.

It's modern version is called the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and is based in Cheltenham.

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