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IDF “Cyber Defenders” on Front Lines Protecting Israel in Cyberspace

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IDF “Cyber Defenders” on Front Lines Protecting Israel in Cyberspace

Post  Admin on Mon 19 Jan 2015, 11:27 am

IDF “Cyber Defenders” on Front Lines Protecting Israel in Cyberspace
By Raphael Poch January 18, 2015

A Palestinian youth wearing masks used by computer hackers who attack a number of Israeli websites annually, seen back-dropped by the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem’s Old City. April 08 2013. (Photo: Sliman Khader/FLASH90)
The new age of terrorism has heralded in a new type of warfare taking place unseen around us. Cyber attacks can come from anywhere in the world, at any time, and possess none of the regular limitations or roadblocks that typical terror attacks are encumbered with, such as capital, physical proximity and acquisition of required weapons. All the attackers need is human ingenuity and a computer.

The IDF was one of the first militaries who took the possibility and eventuality of cyber attacks as a certain threat. In 2002, the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon correctly identified that this issue would be a grave threat to the country and established the Data Security Authority as part of the Shin Bet.
Ever since, Israel has been considered one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of cyber security. A highly developed field in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established an authority similar to the one founded by Sharon to focus on the defense of civilian installations against cyber attacks.
Both defense authorities proved their worth this past summer as Israel came under constant, highly developed cyber attacks from around the world during Operation Protective Edge. Israel came out of the cyber-conflict unscathed. It is for this very reason that Israel is considered one of the most effective countries in the world in everything to do with defending its major facilities and institutions from cyberattacks.
The world is very quickly coming closer to an age where terror attacks are no longer perpetrated by a gun toting Islamic radical in the streets of Paris or Gaza, but where any person can attack a country from the safety of their own basement. Cyber attacks have become a central component of asymmetric warfare. The issue only grows in magnitude when nations face off in cyberspace, similar to what Iran, North Korea, as well as China have been doing for some time.
Recently, cyber terrorists gave a hint of just how dangerous they could be when hackers who claimed affiliation with the Islamic State terror group succeeded in hijacking social media accounts of the US Military’s Central Command, posting propaganda and what they claimed was secret information.
Israel too should be worried as its traditional enemies, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, all invest heavily in cyber warfare. According to sources inside the IDF “ their capacities continue to improve”.
The IDF cyber unit recently graduated a new class of “cyber defenders” last week. A commander in the army’s computers and technology branch, known as C4I, told a group of Israeli military reporters that during the summer Israel was subjected to a cyber attacks “the likes and size of which we have ever seen before”.
In a similar style as terror attacks are perpetrated, the bulk of the cyber threats were aimed at civilian systems rather than the more heavily protected military systems, explained the officer who wishes to remain anonymous.
In an interview with Al-Monitor, Col. Gabi Siboni (ret.), who heads the cyber security program at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), explained: “Cyberspace is becoming a real battleground in conflicts between countries. Whenever there is a determined adversary who knows how to exploit the structural weaknesses of Western democracies he can strike at the country’s soft underbelly and succeed in ways that cannot be ignored.”
Siboni continued to illustrate some of the more thorny issues that arise with regard to cyber attacks. “The attackers will always be more advanced and more determined than the defenders. They have a structural advantage,” he stated. “It is no secret that countries like China and Iran are involved in attempts to gain access to critical infrastructures in the United States and maybe even in Israel too. This does not mean that they will take these steps tomorrow morning and immediately exploit their capabilities. They are saving it for some day in the potential future, when the order is given to attack.”
Siboni drew parallels between Israel’s cyber defense and the country’s physical defenses. “There are visible barriers, erected in cyberspace. They are meant, like border fences, to provide one layer of protection. Around them are other obstacles meant to guide an intruder toward central channels of attack, which are studded with covert traps.”
Israel’s defenses are “deeply layered. In a high percentage of cases we are able to locate the attack, and either negate its advance or launch an effective counter attack.”
He warned that the only stumbling block in the way of a hacker, aside from an excellent cyber defense team, is their own imagination. “It is usually said that the sky is the limit, but when it comes to the cyberworld, even the sky is not the limit. It is a limitless world with infinite possibilities,” Siboni added.
For now, the IDF Cyber Defense Unit has been successful in thwarting would-be attackers from amateur hackers to state actors. While there are no guarantees where the future is concerned, the IDF proves to be as good at cyber defense as they are at regular defense, if not better.
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