IDF bolstering computer defenses

IDF bolstering computer

IDF urban combat 248.88 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
IDF urban combat 248.88
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
In the face of a growing cyber warfare threat, the IDF is beefing up its defenses against enemy hackers. The IDF operates a number of units - in Military Intelligence and the IDF's Computer Services Directorate - which are jointly responsible for defending the IDF as well as other intelligence agencies' networks from foreign infiltration. "The threat is always growing and we always need to be one step ahead," a senior IDF officer said Wednesday. "There are attempts all the time to try and hack into our networks, and we are aware of our enemies' capabilities." On Tuesday, head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin warned of the growing cyber warfare threat against Israel and around the world. He cited as an example the war in Georgia in 2008, during which Russia was suspected of bringing down Georgian infrastructure by hacking into the country's computer mainframes. Yadlin also mentioned Estonia which came under cyber attack in 2007, allegedly also by the Kremlin. The unit responsible for protecting the IDF networks is called Matzov, a Hebrew acronym for "Center for Encryption and Information Security," and operates under the C4I Corps. It is responsible for writing 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., Mekorot, the national water company and Bezeq. Earlier this year, in an effort to improve cooperation between Military Intelligence and the C4I Corps, an intelligence officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel was assigned to Matzov, with responsibility for providing intelligence on technological advances among Israel's enemies in the field of computer hacking. The officer receives his intelligence from Military Intelligence and coordinates with the C4I Directorate to make changes to IDF computer defenses if needed. In addition, the C4I Corps has also established a special team of computer experts which tries to breach IDF firewalls and encryptions as if it was the enemy. According to officers familiar with the team, it has yet to succeed in breaking the IDF codes. Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Yadlin said that cyber warfare fit in well with Israel's defense doctrine, both offensively and defensively. He said it was difficult to know what role cyber warfare would play in a future war but noted that it gave small countries abilities that used to be only in the hands of large superpowers. "This is something that is completely blue and white, and we do not need to rely on foreign assistance or technology," Yadlin said. "It is a field that is very well known to young Israelis, in a country that was crowned a 'start-up nation.'"