IDF Forms New Force to Combat Cyber Warfare

Concerned about the possibility of a debilitating attack on its information systems, army takes steps to ward off cyber threat.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Defense Forces has defined cyber warfare as the fifth realm of warfare, alongsideland, sea, air and space. The IDF has established a command dedicated to cyber warfare that brings together personnel from the Intelligence Branch and the Teleprocessing Branch to ward off cyber attacks.

It is estimated that hundreds of cyber attacks intended to take down Israeli government websites occur every day. But the most substantial threat in the world of cyber warfare is posed by attempts to damage army information systems or hack into them. A video clip released by the IDF on Sunday describes the potential threats in this field.

"Everything is based on the network and if it's damaged it will drastically harm IDF operations," Brig. Gen. Eyal Zelinger, commander of the IDF's Teleprocessing Corps, told Haaretz. "We are prepared for this and for this kind of threat. My enemy is anyone who can get into my network, and today, if they attack one of the military networks – whether it is the Digital Ground Army, systems belonging to the Intelligence Branch or the Air Force – it could affect operational activity across multiple branches."

Last month, a report compiled by Mandiant, an American computer security firm, exposed the multifaceted activity of a Chinese army unit responsible for a series of cyber attacks on institutions in the U.S. Cited by the New York Times, the report credited P.L.A. Unit 61398 with successfully hacking into the networks of Lockheed Martin, Coca Cola, and data security company RSA, as well as a slew of other American companies in various industries.

Zelinger stated that the IDF "wasn't surprised" by the reports on the Chinese cyber activity.

"The Chinese have great technological capabilities, and so do the Russians, the Americans, the Europeans and several other states," he continued. "I treat a threat like a threat and it matters little to me whether it’s thought up by a Chinese mind or an Iranian one.

"Ultimately thedamage can be drastic; therefore, I must be prepared to stand guard against it," he stated. "We have no small amount of experience today and the enemy is sophisticated. My basic worst-case assumption is that whatever I am capable of doing, they are capable of doing to me."

In the coming year, the army intends to make concerted effort to bolster the cyber defense field of the Teleprocessing Branch. The steps already taken include the inauguration of a war room meant to watch out for cyber attacks, as well as a significant increase in the number of troops in cyber defense roles.

An IDF course for cyber-defense in Ramat Gan. Credit: Alon Ron

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