Israel emerges as the key Cyber actor in Asia supporting UAE and India

Israel is seen as one of the world’s leading Cyber strengths, along with the US, China, and Russia. In last five years there have been numerous instances wherein Israel’s Cyber capabilities have received attention by the world. Israel has surfaced a tech giant collaborating with Asian developing countries largely.

Last year, UAE, India, and Israel came together creating a different multilateral agreement wherein the countries are emphasizing on collaborating in technology and infrastructure projects to enhance political, economic, and addressing Cyber challenges. This new alliance is predicted to hold its first in-person conference of foreign ministers in March 2022.

If we evaluate the Cyber capabilities of UAE, India and Israel it becomes pretty clear that associating with Israel is bound to give an edge over Cyber surveillance and intelligence operations to India and UAE.

Apart from Israel’s technological supremacy as a State, Israel-based cyber companies are found to be independently serving in the region.

Israel-India Cyber Relations

NSO group is one such company that has been much highlighted in the news of recent days for its surveillance technology, ‘Pegasus’ spyware that can easily be incepted in a mobile device. The software persuades the target to click on a particularly drafted exploit link, which, when clicked, dispatch a chain of ‘zero-day’ exploit to invade security functions on the phone and installs Pegasus without the user’s acquaintance of permission.

The rulers of the UAE have been using Pegasus Software for many years, covertly turning the smart phones of dissenters at home or rivals abroad into espionage devices. For instance, In August 2016, award-winning UAE activist Ahmed Mansoor was besieged with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

In 2021, the UAE agency allegedly installed Pegasus spyware on mobile device of Jamal Khashoggi’s (Saudi journalist) wife Hanan Elatr (Egyptian flight attendant) months before his murder. Text messages were having malevolent links that were disguised as coming from her sister. With a click on the link, her smart phone got hacked by the attacker.

In the rouse of Pegasus project disclosure, India too is into criticism from several nations aiming to augment their cyber front. The country has been accused of using Israel’s Pegasus spyware against the opposition, union minister and journalists, etc.

Last year, Pakistan accused the Indian government of spying on its Prime Minister Imran Khan using the Pegasus spyware and called for an investigation into the matter by the UN agency. According to the reports by the Global Consortium of Media Outlets, a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers was selected for surveillance by clients of the NSO group.

When it comes to lawful intercepts and hacking business, Israel is positioned as one of the leading countries. Israel’s spyware “Cyber Mercenaries” industry is getting slammed around the world. Israel covertly contacted American cyber companies to purchase hacking tools. F.B.I secretly bought Israeli spyware and explored hacking U.S. phones for domestic surveillance.

As the reports unfold many other countries having similar modus operendi to NSO has surfaced. These are private companies who are identified as the offshoots of NSO Group and few maybe shell companies operating from different locations to bypass political sanctions of serving a country.

These companies include Quadream, Cellebrite, Verint, Candiru which covertly provide similar services just like NSO group to the administrations of other Nations like Kazakhstan, Rwanda, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Egypt, primarily developing nations facing dissent from civilians.

The trio association will not just strengthen the basic technology and infrastructure capabilities but will also provide a platform for both UAE and India to utilize Israel’s public and private Cyber capabilities for achieving their political objectives within their countries and the region holistically.