The IDF uses cyberspace to gather intelligence, attack enemies and conduct various military operations, the military revealed on Sunday in a posting on its official website.
The rare announcement was the first time the IDF officially admitted it engages in cyberwarfare for offensive purposes. It also came a week after a new virus was discovered to have attacked Iran, widely presumed to have been developed by Israel.
The IDF’s Operations Directorate recently drafted a document defining the purpose and use of cyberwarfare for the Israeli military.
According to the document, cyberspace is viewed by the army as another battlefield – like land, sea and airspace.
“Professionally speaking, the IDF is fighting consistently and relentlessly in cyberspace, is collecting intelligence and protecting the IDF networks as well,” the army posting said. “When needed, cyberspace is also used to execute attacks and other information operations.”
The IDF said that the purpose of operations in cyberspace included “ thwarting initiatives by Israel’s enemies to undermine the IDF’s and Israel’s operational freedom” in a wide variety of conflicts.
The timing of the publication of this information is interesting, as it comes just a week after the Flame virus was discovered to have infected a significant number of computers in Iran.
Flame effectively turns every computer it infects into the ultimate spy. It can turn on PC microphones to record conversations occurring near computers, take screenshots, log instant message chats, gather data files and remotely change settings.
The day it was discovered, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon fueled speculation of Israeli involvement in developing Flame by praising Israeli technological prowess in response to a radio interview on the issue.
Israel, he said, was blessed with superior technology: “These achievements of ours open all kinds of possibilities for us,” he said.
Military Intelligence Unit 8200 – the equivalent of the US National Security Agency and already the supervisor of signal intelligence, eavesdropping on the enemy and code decryption – is responsible for the IDF’s offensive cyber capabilities. Defending military networks is under the supervision of the C4I Directorate.
The branches work closely together and rely heavily on each other’s input and experience.
The C4I Directorate, for example, receives intelligence on enemy cyber capabilities from military intelligence, and Unit 8200 looks to the directorate for technical guidance.
The C4I Directorate also recently established a cyber war room in the Kirya military headquarters where officers can keep an eye on the army’s various networks. Currently, the directorate is developing a new command- and-control system that will enable it to oversee all of the main networks at once – without needing to look at each one individually.