Cybersecurity Theory Development: the Israeli Case in Strategic Context

Lior Tabansky


The “Israeli cyber-defense” capability is held in high regard. Could we generalize a roadmap to achieve a consistently excellent state of national cybersecurity from this case? However, public discussions on Israeli cybersecurity are usually detached from strategic context, impeding cybersecurity scholarship and policy efforts.  I argue that the common explanations of cybersecurity – e.g. as a by-product of military technology, entrepreneurial skills or innovative ICT sector –  are only manifestations of other variables. Uncovering the links between the Israeli grand-strategy and its cybersecurity policy will improve analytical tools and have policy implications.  The objectives are:

  1. To bridge the knowledge gap by developing an open, fact-based, comprehensive case study of the Israeli cybersecurity policy from the early beginning to date.
  2. To utilize the case study to perform a cross-disciplinary analysis of the Israeli cybersecurity in a grand-strategic context; as opposed to information security, legal, military, technical, regulatory and other narratives.
  3. To advance a deductive attempt to develop a general analytic framework of national cybersecurity, which provides ample room for non-technical as well as non-military aspects.

I have already collected much of the sources on the evolution of Israeli cybersecurity in previous research. As cybersecurity overlaps national security, one expects the application of the rich Security Studies scholarship to cybersecurity. However, to the best of our knowledge such a cross-disciplinary approach has not been attempted in the Israeli case. Similarly, Security Studies scholars have largely neglected the cybersecurity topic in the West. In attempt to bridge this gap I will apply the literature on Israeli Strategy to analyze Israeli cybersecurity policy.

The general argument is that national Grand-Strategy is the under-researched factor impacting cybersecurity strategy and practice. Hypotheses on how have concepts such as qualitative edge, early warning, force multiplier and deterrence on impact Israeli national cybersecurity posture and capability will be formulated more precisely once the case becomes clearer, and subjected to critical tests. The newly applied scholarship from two realms (Israeli Strategy and Security Studies) in this case study provides for a deductive attempt to develop a general theory of national cybersecurity, which provides ample room for non-technical aspects. Theory building from case studies is an increasingly popular and relevant research strategy that forms the basis of influential studies. This qualitative research method enables us to capture the complexity of the object of study. This research case selection is driven by the global high regard of the Israeli cybersecurity. The findings of the case study enable us to uncover drivers, dynamics, stakeholders, conflicts and hurdles in the Israeli cybersecurity policy for further examination of their relative significance towards a new Cybersecurity Theory with enhanced explanatory power.

This research provides cybersecurity debate with the missing context by utilizing knowledge obtained from the Security Studies literature on National Grand-Strategy to analyze cybersecurity. It presents a theoretical-methodological innovation, with a broad generalization potential. Scholars of International Relations, Security Studies, Comparative Strategy, Public Policy, Business Management, Organizational Change, as well as policy circles – will find value in the solid factual foundation of theory building and comparative research provided by this case study of Israeli cybersecurity.

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