Former Unit 8200 commander lashes out at reservists' public criticism

Zafrir did not attack the content of the reservists' criticism of the IDF, but that the criticism was not done privately.

An officer monitors intelligence from Gaza in IAF headquarters. (photo credit: HAGAR AMIBAR)
An officer monitors intelligence from Gaza in IAF headquarters.
(photo credit: HAGAR AMIBAR)
Former IDF cyber unit 8200 commander Nadav Zafrir on Sunday at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University lashed out on a personal level at a group of 43 reservists from the same unit who have publicly refused to take action against the Palestinians on moral grounds.
While many politicians slammed the reservists, who had said that the actions they were being asked to take were unethical and not in self-defense, Zafrir’s criticism, as a former commander of the unit, felt much closer to home, with him both struggling to comment on the issue and visibly viscerally angry.
Zafrir did not attack the content of the reservists’ criticism of the IDF, noting that criticism was an important part of debate in a democracy.
Rather, he said that because they were part of the IDF, and an elite unit, they had a greater responsibility to voice that criticism privately, and to avoid using their privileged positions to make damaging public statements.
In addition to the refusal controversy, Zafrir emphasized the world’s continual vulnerability to cyber hacking, with a huge video screen photo of Jennifer Lawrence to remind the audience of the recent hacking event which led to the spreading of nude photos of several celebrities across cyberspace.
While he was only one of many speakers to emphasize that part of the key to fighting off hackers was confronting the human element of cyber attackers, some of his proposed solutions were unique.
Zafrir said the human side of even the most advanced hacking enterprises, if carefully analyzed, would always reveal past histories, including past failed hacking attempts and a greater understanding of the goals and weaknesses of the hackers.
Such sneak peeks into the hackers’ capabilities can help lead to ways to attack the hackers themselves, directly or in counterattacks, in order to eventually remove the threat of the hacking programs they produce, said Zafrir.
Only with this branching out from mere cyber defense did he believe that defenders could truly hope to protect nations and companies from their “advanced persistent threat” attackers – hackers with a long-term commitment to wreaking cyber havoc and substantial resources for doing so.
The current commander of Unit 8200, Brig.-Gen. A. (full name withheld), sent a letter to members of the unit, after 43 serving reservists claimed that systematic ethical breaches were taking place and said they would refuse to serve.
In the letter, Brig.-Gen.
A. said problems should be brought up with superior officers, not in the media.
He provided an example of an officer who had a moral dilemma and reported it to his commanders, who successfully helped him deal with the issue.
The IDF has not yet made a decision on whether and how to discipline the reservists, saying the issue is still being examined.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.