More than half of the Israeli respondents are willing to let the government monitor their Internet activity in order to increase their sense of security against cyberattacks. This is the finding of a new study conducted at the University, shortly after threats were made by the network of hackers calling itself Anonymous to wage an “electronic holocaust” against the State of Israel.“
In the present study conducted by Prof. Daphna Canetti, Prof. Michael Gross, and Dr. Dana Vashdi from the School of Political Sciences, the researchers sought to examine the perceptions of the Israeli public regarding virtual terrorism. To do so, a few days before a recent attack and then again immediately following it, 470 respondents were asked to answer questions about cyberattacks against Israel.
The results of the study show that there is concern among the respondents regarding the consequences of cyberattacks: 65% recognized that a cyberattack could threaten critical resources like water, traffic light infrastructure, etc. 50% believe that a cyberattack could cause physical harm to the civilian population, and 84% believe that governmental sites and military installations constitute the targets for any such terror attacks. These reported concerns were significantly higher among women (40%) than among the men respondents (25%).
In order to increase the sense of security, many Israelis are prepared to allow government surveillance of their activity on the Internet in a variety of fields. 53% of the respondents agreed that the government should be allowed to monitor their email correspondence and their activity on social networks in order to facilitate the locating of terrorists suspected of constituting a threat to state security. The study also found that 58% of respondents would agree to adopt biometric standards to combat cyberattacks, roughly a third would allow the government to monitor social network and emails, and 28% would let the government block access to certain websites.
Regarding an appropriate Israeli response to cyberattacks, the study showed that the public expects the government to respond aggressively. 87% of those polled expect the government to respond to cyberattacks by means of cyber counterattacks, while a small minority (13%) calls for an extreme response that includes armed attacks with missiles or fighter planes to destroy enemy resources.
According to the researchers, the data demonstrate an increased understanding among Israelis regarding the potential of cyberattacks, but also substantiate the sense of personal fear and threat experienced by the public, which in turn result in demands for governmental intervention and a willingness to relinquish key aspects of privacy – all to ensure personal and national security. The authors of the research concluded: “The results of this study are naturally understandable in light of the political and military reality in which we live. But, at the same time, before the public places all responsibility for cyber security in the hands of national law enforcement agencies or the military, a large number of safeguards can be adopted by all of us that include–regularly changing account passwords, installing sophisticated software to detect cyber threats, and acquiring specialized hardware by individuals and businesses – before demanding that the government resort to offensive military operations.”