Israeli Military Reorganizing Its Cybersecurity Operations

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

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has decided to establish a command dedicated to cyberwarfare by the end of the army’s current multiyear plan ending in 2020.

Initially, it was thought that the command would bring together personnel from the IDF’s Intelligence Branch and Teleprocessing Branch, including defensive and offensive functions and intelligence gathering in the field of cybernetics.

Now, however, a senior IDF officer has said the army is still deliberating over whether to put all these operations under the responsibility of the cybersecurity command, or to leave the intelligence gathering and offensive operations in the hands of the Intelligence Branch, as is currently the case. This would maintain separation between defensive and offensive cybersecurity fields.

There have been power struggles between the Intelligence Branch and the Teleprocessing Branch against this backdrop and over the question of authority and control of the field.

The new decision places the IDF cybersecurity command, which is headed by Brig. Gen. Yaron Rosen, a helicopter pilot, under the responsibility of the Teleprocessing Branch. Up to now, it reported to the deputy chief of staff.

Following the latest approvals last Friday by Eisenkot, the composition and operations of the Teleprocessing Branch will change and focus on cybersecurity, connectivity and networking. It is possible that the classic field of two-way communications, which was part of the corps’ responsibility, will be transferred to the Ground Forces Command, which is also now being reorganized as part of its merger with the Technology and Logistics Branch.

Because of these changes, the Teleprocessing Branch will probably change its name. Based on Eisenkot’s decision, planning branch staff will finalize the matter in the coming months. Information gathering and offensive aspects of the field are to remain in the Intelligence Branch.

“This is something that we very much don’t want to cause harm to, because we have superiority [in intelligence gathering through the use of cybernetics], which serves us and generates dividends for the State of Israel,” the officer said.

In the context of organizing the IDF’s operations in the cybersecurity field, Israeli army representatives meet with representatives of the American and other involved countries’ armies. “There is cooperation with a number of countries around the world, involving study and reciprocal visits. We have [also] held war games and simulations,” the officer said, adding that in the meetings with the foreign armies, they have shown interest in two primary fields in which the IDF is involved – fighting terrorism and military cybersecurity.

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