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Cisco's fibre network for Israel could let in hackers, warns security chief

Israel plans to bring in Cisco to network up the whole country with fibre, but the plans have been criticised by a US national security expert, reports Reuters (opens in new tab).

Cisco is supplying (opens in new tab)Israel Electric Corporation with a country-wide fibre-optic network, which will serve as the backbone for electricity, television, healthcare and education services, said the US company, which has well-established R&D facilities in the country.

However, going fully digital to run a country is seen as a security risk in some quarters. “There is national security and innovation and you have to find the right balance,” Paul de Souza, CEO of the Washington-headquartered Cyber Security Forum Initiative, told Reuters.

De Souza's organisation is a non-profit body that assists government, military and industry. He said, “You can’t compromise national security just because you want the country to be extremely innovative.”

De Souza's intervention is rather timely seeing it comes after the Prism scandal, which has seen the US National Security Agency's (NSA) spying operation stripped bare.

The reason the NSA has been able to spy on people around the world is because it has been able to easily tap into digital communications cables that are made of fibre.

Cisco CEO John Chambers said that Cisco was committed to securing the Israeli network, and that his company would train and attract “the best there is in security on a global basis.” The company has also created a technology incubator in Israel for cyber-defence start-up companies.

Cisco told Reuters, “The government of Israel and Cisco are still working on a plan that will give solutions for all needs that arise.”

De Souza maintained that Cisco should cooperate with Israeli information security companies and integrate their technology to protect the new network.“At the end of the day, you want a network to have layers of security and a certain layer of complexity to make it harder for people to penetrate it,” he said.

He warned that Israel could become a prime target for hackers (opens in new tab), who could penetrate all or parts of the fibre network, and launch cyber attacks on Israel itself, or use the country as a launchpad for cyber attacks on other states.