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Netanyahu: No country more prepared than Israel to thwart election meddling

In this Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, photo, Sameera Rada Emran holds a ballot paper with her name in Ein Qiniya in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Druze residents of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights will for the first time join millions of Israelis
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
Netanyahu says 'there is no country more ready then Israel to prevent a cyber attack'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Wednesday that Israel is ready to thwart any attempt by a foreign country to meddle in the April 9 elections, after a warning by the Shin Bet internal security agency about such a threat.

“Israel is prepared to thwart a cyber intervention, we’re prepared for any scenario and there’s no country more prepared than we are,” Netanyahu said.

The Shin Bet did not explicitly name the country directing the alleged election tampering, but said that it would come by way of cyber hackers.

The security agency later issued a statement ensuring the Israeli public that it has "the tools and capabilities to locate, monitor and thwart foreign intervention" and promising free and democratic elections.

On Wednesday, a poll by the Pew Research Center was released, revealing that more than 60% of Israelis fear the elections could be influenced by manipulation and cyber attacks. The poll was conducted in the spring last year. 

Israel's Central Elections Committee sought to assure the public that a "plan of actions" is being made to prevent foreign meddling in the elections.

“Together with security bodies, we studied what happened in other countries and we are devising a plan of action,” it said on Wednesday.

AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service

Since Israel votes with paper ballots, any cyber election meddling would likely involve efforts to manipulate public opinion by spreading false information online.

The same tactic was allegedly used by Russian hackers to influence American voters ahead of the 2016 US presidential elections, which saw Donald Trump come to power.

However, Russia denied on Wednesday it intended to meddle in Israel’s upcoming national elections.

“Russia did not interfere, does not interfere, and does not mean to interfere in any elections in any country in the world,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian reporters when asked about the Israeli warning.

Two extensive reports have detailed concerted attempts to stoke US political conflict through ads and posts across social media platforms between 2015-2017 purchased by a St Petersburg-based troll farm called Internet Research Agency (IRA), which is controlled by a private firm owned by a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Twitter last year acknowledged that hundreds of accounts from Russia and Iran were engaged in manipulation efforts.

Both Facebook and Google have uncovered similar efforts and have stepped up efforts to curb foreign influence.

See also:

Analysis: Shin Bet chief revelations to deter 'foreign state' interference


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