The Israel’s Channel 2 reports (Hebrew) that the IDF intends to double the manpower of its Unit 8200, which is charged with waging cyber-war on Israel’s enemies. It plays a role akin to the NSA here in the U.S. and was responsible for creating Stuxnet, Flame and the other cyber-viruses which have decimated Iran’s nuclear and oil facilities.
This is further confirmation of a growing trend that includes the Pentagon’s announcement that it would undertake a five-year $100-million program to fund the latest cyber-weapons in America’s war on its cyber-enemies. This calls for a major ramp-up among U.S. defense contractors who will also be recruiting talent from U.S. grad schools to help develop the Stuxnets and drone technology of the future. This will enable presidents like Barack Obama to continue telling the world that they adhere to international law regarding counter-terror policy, all the while thumbing their noses at it.
The Channel 2 story, in typically patriotic fashion, calls those recruited to Unit 8200 computer geniuses (“if you’re a computer genius, this is the place for you!”). It even calls this field of endeavor “sexy.” There seems no recognition that what these sexy geniuses will be increasingly called to do is not only sabotage enemy infrastructure, but also cause death and devastation on a massive scale. As I’ve written, it’s only a matter of time before someone pushes a Send button and unleashes code that derails a train, causes an explosion in a power plant, or poisons a water supply. Even Leon Panetta warned of this eventuality. Only of course, he warned of someone doing it to us, rather than us doing it to someone else. We all know that the things you accuse your opponent of wishing to do to you are the same things you’d do to him given half a chance.
How does the IDF identify suitable candidates? If you’re a high school student taking anywhere from five to ten computer subjects you’ll receive an invitation to take a special computer exam measuring your expertise. Recruiters also scan computer-related internet forums for suitable candidates. The IDF has a network of technical high schools throughout the country which also funnel manpower into the army’s technical units, including Unit 8200.
Army personnel boast of the cachet such service provides when cyber-warriors leave military service. They transfer into civilian defense industry jobs in which they receive generous salaries and prestigious positions, all the while continuing to develop Israel’s cyber-weapons of the future.
Bibi Netnayahu himself has weighed in on this subject, boasting that Unit 8200 would serve as Israel’s “digital Iron Dome.” What this neglects of course is that Unit 8200 is engaged in far more than defensive operations (Iron Dome is a missile defense system). Rather it’s engaged in offensive operations designed to sabotage critical infrastructure of Iran and other nations. Infrastructure that supports civilian, as well as military uses. It’s only a matter of time before these weapons are used to kill. That will take cyber-war to the “next level.” One that few are anticipating right now.
Fred Plester says
It’s going to be interesting to see how many of the recruits turn out to be Romanian and Bulgarians. It transpires that cyber warfare was supposed to be their contribution to the Warsaw pact, due to lack of resources to do anything, and they actually turned out quite a lot of skilled hackers in the eighties.
Given that cyber warfare will indeed derail and collide trains, hardened ex-military hackers from Eastern Europe, often with post-military experience in ATM and credit card hacking, may prove better suited to the task than idealistic and talented university graduates. It’s just unfortunate that the FSB and SVR will already have extensive files on all of them, possibly including enough blackmail material to command their loyalty in a crisis.
This is absolutely a rational approach by Israel – if in the end it will have to act on its own. A conventional war act (bombing) will be bloody since the Iranians have capabilities here. The Cyber thing is new & there is no past precedence to relate to and learn from (as in the bombing case where they have the Iraq precedent) – it is hard to defend against the unknown and unfamiliar. Also digging deep into mountains, an Iranian practice, gives no protection here – the “virtual” penetrates every place where there is a computer or a telephone and alike. In addition in this area there is a meaningful gap between Israel (and of course the US) and Iran. Also cyber is usually traceless – provides no evidence about the perpetrators – and certainly not in the clear cut that bombing does. Importantly, cyber don`t kill innocent people – which nobody wants to do for moral reasons and because of the hope to resume the good relations that Israel had with Iran in the past – but rather hits directly at the target of interest, namely the regime`s power centers and various communication channels. Finally, even if in the end there will be a need to use conventional means, the effect of that on one hand and the response ability of the Iranians on the other hand will be of altogether different magnitude if the system there is already crippled and in chaos. It is possible that the spectacle of the first real cyber-war is around the corner. The drama goes on.
Is it a rational approach for Israel? Lets remember, that Israeli society is much more dependent of computers and technology than Iran is today. It means that Israel is also vulnerable. Imagining that normal Israeli companies and communities are excellently protected against against cyber attacks is most certainly completely baseless optimistic propaganda. If Israel can make cyber attacks against Iranian oil industry why then whine if Iran destroys for example Israeli industrial chemical processes in factories with computer based attacks. It is idiotic to claim that cyber warfare doesn’t (could not) kill innocent people. What could for example a computer attack against a large water distribution system or large chemical plant cause? The amount of dead could be in the worst case compared to the “results” of nuclear weapons.
Iran claims to have the world’s second-largest cyber-army. Even if that is not exactly true Iran’s skills and resources should not underestimated. After all they managed to hijack an extremely developed US drone. Also in a conflict on Iran’s side would be thousands of angry hackers in Muslim countries. Inside Israel are thousands of badly treated people ready to aid Iranian cyber attacks. The war against Hizbollah in 2006 showed that the Israeli side is not so superior as Israeli Jews are brainwashed to believe. Iran has had years to prepare to an Israeli (US) attack so they hardly are unprepared.
Fred Plester says
Off topic for this post, but not for the blog’s overall aim:
The Customer of Qatar has clearly decided that if Hamas has a funding problem due to its dispute with Iran (over being ordered to support Assad) the safest thing to do was step into the breach, before Hamas found some other source of funds with much nastier strings attached.
If Israel were in a mood for serious and sincere negotiation, this would be a good time. If they can’t go that far, they could just take a holiday from kicking Hamas around, because Hamas isn’t willing to be Iran’s puppet anymore. Hamas recognized that whatever the the international power plays were, its members simply couldn’t stomach Assad anymore.
Hezbollah will do what Iran wants, though: they share the need to support Assad, because his fall will change the balance of power within Lebanon in a way which may make their long-term position there untenable. (In the short term, they have too much firepower to be quickly eliminated by other Lebanese factions. But without Assad, their economic and strategic position can only head downhill and they won’t get any fresh supplies of either munitions or money.)
I think this is already happening. The emirates see Israel as an insurance policy against their main worry – Iran, and the Sunny Hamas, which already quit Damascus as a base, is in the process of shifting alliances. Gaza will go the way of the West-Bank and replace focusing on economic developments rather than national rhetoric. I kind of predicted this development long time ago – a war fatigue has descended on the Palestinians
Hezbollah is almost surely doomed – it lost all prestige in the Arab world by supporting Assad and the Sunnis in Lebanon and in Syria are preparing their moves.
Tibor what do you think the radical Sunnis (Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaida) will do when they rule Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey? Do you predict that they will concentrate solely to Iran, forget Palestinians, Israeli nukes and past decades events. Even Hizbollah would “vanish from the map” and Iran would forced to be non nuclear, it would not make Israel the winner which could kick out or kill millions of Palestinians and continue pretending to be non-nuclear. The Sunni block is already militarily superior with traditional weapons and the west and east will need desperately the oil they (=Sunnis, not USA) control. After Iran “they” will come after Israel. The presents days Israel is a dead-end without or with “Iran”.
Simo, I think your wish to see Israel undone clouds your judgment. In your vision eyes every scenario leads to the same end. For 65 years now and with Israel in previous times infinitely weaker the same prediction surfaced regularly. The point is that you, as those before, simplify things into arguments of convenience. It will simply take too long to depict to you counter scenarios and the multitude of factors and unknowns you chose to ignore.
Richard Silverstein says
I was hoping your calling Hamas “Sunny Hamas” was the real deal and that you’d become a fan. But alas, you made a typo.
Save yr predictions for someone who really believes you know what you’re talking about. You don’t.
How funny that Israeli regime is worried about cyber-viruses and Stuxnet being used by its “presumed enemies”? Isn’t it Israel which have been using these modern warfare against American, Iranian and Lebanese targets (Oops! pardon my anti-Semitism)?
The next Israeli war with any of its neighbors (Syria, Lebanon or Iran) would not only be bloody but could pale the Nazi-Zionist Holocaust during 1940s. To start with, just imagine what kind of photos Hizballah drone transmitted back home.
Also, it’s good to remember Gen. Giora Eiland’s statement on Army Radio: “Israel does not know how to beat Hezbollah”. Franklin Lamb PhD, agrees with Gen. Eiland’s views by saying a coward and corrupt Jewish Army cannot defeat the religiously-motivated and well disciplined Hizbullah fighters.
And yet, somehow I have the feeling that when a war breaks, the “anti-war” zombies will whine about Israel’s dis proportional forces and lack of sufficient casualties on the Israeli side, as they did in 2006 and in 2009.
Richard Silverstein says
Why do you have to be a total nitwit jerk. No one whined about insufficient Israeli casualties. That’s all in your victim-centric narcissistic mind. What the world was outraged about was the massive level of death & destruction levelled by Israel against Gaza & Lebanon. I have a real problem with your deliberate posturing & distortion of reality. If you want to participate by all means do. If you want to distort reality & score points in some imagined debate, by all means don’t.
Richard Silverstein says
I’m putting you on a very short leash. I don’t like hyperbolic terms like “Nazi Zionist Holocaust.” THey have some meaning to you but to no one else. Speak in commonly accepted terms, not ones you’ve made up to suit your ideological proclivities. And read my comment rules about terms that are acceptable & terms that are not.
I’ve asked you once before NOT to add links to the body of your comments. Add them to the URL field for your comment. If you continue ignoring my request I will not be happy.
Franklin Lamb is not a credible source for anything.
Bob Mann says
The Nazi-Zionist Holocaust? Come again?
I suggest you two studyRabbi Wolf Gunther Plaut (1912-2012), former president of Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) and Chief Rabbi at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple – 1990 book ‘The Man Who Would Be Messiah‘, Plaut wrote that Frankist Jews were responsible for the Holocaust. The book’s ‘Forward’ was written by no other than Elie Weisel, the father of ‘holocaust culture’. Weisel did not disagree with Rabbi Plaut. The book is biography of Polish Rabbi Ya’akov Frank (1726-1791), who claimed being the biblical Messiah of Jews and thus part of Trinity.
Richard Silverstein says
Oh Lord, what idiocy. I strongly doubt you’ve read the book in question. If you have you’re no doubt debasing Plaut’s arguments. Please stop reducing Judaism to your own anti-Zionist cliches.
Oh G-d, what a self-denial. I strong doubt if you ever met the Rabbi who preached in my Toronto neighborhood. If you had you would have known what he was talking about.
Btw. Have you meet or read Israeli professor Yeshyahu Leibowictz? He wrote not long ago that Holocaust has replaced Jewish religion. Barack Obama confirmed Leibowitcz’s ststement during his UNGA speech last month when he said: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied”.
SHALOM – Though Gilad atzmon told me once at ‘peacepalestine’ that Shalom doesn’t mean “peace to you” – but what’s good for the Jews!