IDF cyber defenders attend international exercise

Some 57 teams from 14 different countries participated in it.

IDF cyber defenders are seen participating in an online international exercise. (photo credit: IDF)
IDF cyber defenders are seen participating in an online international exercise.
(photo credit: IDF)
Five teams of IDF cyber defenders attended an international cyber defense exercise last week.
The exercise was initiated by the US Army Cyber Center of Excellence. Some 57 teams from 14 different countries participated in it.
The exercise itself – conducted online – was built on the concept of “capture the flag”; each team had to identify a cyber problem, solve it and then advance to the next stage.
The IDF sent cyber defenders from different parts of the military.
Cyber defenders are trained by the Computer Service Directorate and then sent to different units, such as the Air Force, Intelligence Corps, the navy and others, and within the units, their duty is to protect the network.
The exercise was meant to take place in the US but due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was conducted remotely.
The Israeli teams gathered in a civilian compound near the Israeli Signal Corps memorial in Yehud. Large-screen TVs were set up so the teams could see and contact their counterparts from around the globe.
Lt.-Col. O, a senior officer in the IDF’s Joint Cyber Defense Division who is in charge of International cooperations in the cyber field, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the participation of the defenders is a part of a general perception that aims to keep them in “operational tension.”
“It was an intensive experience,” he said. “It’s a race against the clock and you need to use all of your skills to cooperate with your teammates and indemnity and solve problems,” he said.
O. explained that while coronavirus halted many aspects of our lives, it did not pause the cybersphere. On the contrary – threats are just increasing.
“We were ordered by the IDF chief of staff to maintain operative fitness in light of the complicated reality that we’re experiencing,” he said. “COVID or not, we need to maintain high awareness on one hand and stay fit and able to act in light of various scenarios on the other.
“It is no secret that the threats in the cyber world are only increasing. As the world tends to use more and more technologies, we see more attempts to attack – especially in the last year [to] year and a half,” he added.
O. said that this exercise – despite being done remotely – allowed his soldiers to see and learn how other experts in their field operate.
“We had a chance to learn from our counterparts, and see how they work,” he said. “Despite getting to the same results, we had the opportunity to learn how they think,” he added.
He added that is the exercise, his soldiers practiced the skills needed for a cyber defender.
“The goal was to practice work in high intensity,” he said. “You are under time pressure, and you have to work. If you lose pace, you’re losing – and that’s the cyber world.
“Cyber is always looking for the anomaly when you’re not always sure whether it’s a technical error or an attack. You always need to think out of the box – and understand what the enemy is trying to achieve – and make quick decisions,” he added.
Cyberattacks, in their nature, are done in the global arena and are less visible than actual shots fired from one country to another. O. said that due to this nature, the IDF constantly works in cooperation with other countries, and keeps strengthening these ties.
“Unlike other spheres that the IDF operates within, the reality forces us to operate globally in partnerships,” he said. “Cyberattacks showed us that in many cases, it would not come in a direct way. It’s not Tehran-Tel Aviv.
“In many cases, an event [attack] will go through many servers and networks around the globe [until it reaches the target]. Then the question is not about dealing with the threat, but more about how do I create a situation in which I prevent it from getting into my network [in the first place].
“You do that in two ways – the first is deterrence – you make the enemy think twice before it hits ‘enter’. The second, you create close relations with partners, and with them, you protect them - and us.
“We’re building a strategic depth that helps us protect Israel and the IDF along with our partners,” he added.