Eye on tech exports, Israel launches cyber command

JERUSALEM Wed May 18, 2011 6:52am EDT

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel set up a government cyber command on Wednesday to secure the country against hacking attacks on its key networks and boost the competitiveness of local industries specializing in high-tech security.

The 80-person team led by a retired general and unveiled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows similar initiatives in the West as a precaution against industrialized nations falling prey to paralyzing sabotage of their online systems.

Though Israel's secret services are widely suspected of having waged such attacks against arch-foe Iran, Netanyahu said the new unit would be defensive.

The National Cybernetic Taskforce would have access to a budget of "hundreds of millions of shekels" in the coming years.

"I promise that we will stand up to the menace of future cyber attacks," Netanyahu told reporters without elaborating on such threats. "There is not a shadow of a doubt about that."

Israel is a global high-tech leader and exporter, its civilian firms boosted by recruits from, and industrial cooperation with, the country's universities and advanced conscript military.

The new command "will coordinate between the needs of national defense and the growth potential of the cyber industries and the academic field," Netanyahu said, citing a plan to incorporate related studies at secondary-school level.

"The state of Israel will be a center for dealing with the cyber world," he said.

(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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