IDF building elite hacker teams amid cyber threat

Move comes amid concern over growing threat to Israel’s civilian, military networks from Iran, terrorist cyber attacks.

January 13, 2012 07:47
2 minute read.
Cyber warfare [illustrative]

Cyber warfare US Department of Homeland Security 311 (R). (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)


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The IDF is assembling elite teams of computer hackers to lead the nation’s cyber-warfare efforts.

The move comes amid concern over the growing threat to Israel’s civilian and military networks from Iran, senior officers said.

Gaza hackers attack Israeli firefighters' website
'Saudi hacker disseminates third harmful file'
Shin Bet: Critical infrastructure targeted by cyber-warfare

Last month, the army recruited close to 300 young computer experts, many of them without college or even high-school degrees.

“These are some of the top experts in their field,” a senior officer said.

The new soldiers will serve in Military Intelligence as well as in the C4I Directorate, the two military branches responsible for cyber-warfare in the IDF.

C4I stands for command, control, communications, computers, and (military) intelligence.

The decision to recruit the soldiers is part of a new IDF multi-year plan aimed at boosting the military’s cyber-warfare capabilities.

Last month, The Jerusalem Post reported on an ambitious Iranian plan to invest $1 billion to develop technology and hire computer experts with the goal of boosting the Islamic Republic’s offensive and defensive cyber-warfare capabilities.

Israel is also concerned about terrorist cyber attacks, demonstrated by the release of thousands of Israeli credit card numbers by a Saudi hacker this past week.

“We are not where we would like to be when it comes to the cyber world and we are working to improve our capabilities,” the senior officer said.

The government recently established a cyber task force that will be responsible for improving Israeli defenses and coordinating the development of new software and capabilities between local defense and hi-tech companies.

The IDF recently organized the units that deal with cyber-warfare, establishing offensive capabilities and operations within Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 and defensive operations within a new division within the C4I Directorate.

The new division is run by a colonel who took up his post over the summer. The officer is the former commander of Matzov, the unit that is responsible for protecting the IDF networks and a Hebrew acronym for “Center for Encryption and Information Security.”

Matzov writes the codes that encrypt IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Mossad networks, as well as mainframes in national corporations, such as the Israel Electrical Corp., the Mekorot national water company and the Bezeq telephone company.

One of the IDF’s primary concerns is the possibility that an enemy will topple military networks during a war. In recent years, the military has invested heavily in digitizing its ground forces, for example with the Tzayad digital army program that allows units to share information on the location of friendly and hostile units.

“For us, cyber defense means retaining the ability to continue operating and to be able to rely on the security and availability of our networks,” a senior officer from the C4I Directorate explained recently.

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