Information Warfare: IDF Seeks A Few Good Geeks


October 18, 2012: The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is intensifying the screening of all new recruits for the military to identify those qualified to work in Cyber War units. This is in response to the growing threat of Internet based attacks. So far, Israel has managed to defeat most of these attacks. Without much fanfare Israel has taken the lead in many aspects of offensive and defensive Cyber War. One of the key components of this lead is the ability to spot talent and develop it. This is also a major reason for the disproportionate number of high-tech firms and new technology patents in Israel.

But it’s Israeli military applications for Cyber War that has caused the U.S. to work more closely with Israeli Cyber War organizations (an effort that apparently produced Stuxnet, Duqu, and several other more powerful Cyber War weapons). The Americans were impressed that Israel, a country with less than three percent of the U.S. population, could create Cyber War teams equal, and sometimes superior, to what the United States has.

Israel does this by employing a recruiting system it has long used to find quality recruits for elite combat and intelligence units. Back in the 1990s, Israeli leaders realized that the Internet would probably quickly develop into another battlefield. So commando recruiting was expanded to include recruits for new Cyber War organizations. There are now over a dozen of these, nearly all of them secret (as in even their names are classified). These small teams serve various military, intelligence, and other government organizations. It's believed that there are only a few hundred hackers involved and many of them are in these jobs for only a short time (often to take care of their military service obligation). Most of these Cyber War experts go on to careers in the many Israeli software companies and are available to return to the military (as part of their reserve obligation) for short periods to help out with Cyber War operations.

Israel has been trying to get their American counterparts to use some of the Israeli recruiting and talent development techniques. U.S. military officials point out that in the United States most college campuses are hostile to such programs. Not so in Israel, where the constant threat of Palestinian terrorism and Iranian missile attack makes universities more accommodating. The scope of the national threats Israel faces also makes it easier to run a national screening program to identify and recruit potential high performers before they reach high school. In Israel that means these candidates, who are honored by being selected, get additional training and a shot at joining elite Cyber War units.

Israel has used their recruiting methods in some very innovative ways. Two years ago, for example, Israel began using the same screening and recruiting techniques they employ for commando units to form a different kind of Cyber War unit. The Israelis were not just seeking men (or women) with the right technical skills but also with the mental toughness characteristic of the regular commandos. Israel wanted to use this Cyber War unit to deal with the most difficult and dangerous Cyber War situations. Thus, if there's a Cyber War attack, using an unknown and seemingly devastating new technique, you would have the Cyber War commando unit available to send in. The same response would be used against an enemy Cyber War target that has to be disrupted or simply investigated. You have a unit to do the job because this unit has already been recruited and trained to be the best of the best. Similarly, if you were sending in regular commandos on a raid to steal technology (something Israel has already done several times), several of the Cyber War commandos would go along. Already known to be tough minded but possessing high technical skills, the Cyber War guys could keep up with the regular commandos and quickly sort out the enemy technology and take, or destroy, the right items. The new unit is actually part of military intelligence and will seek recruits in the military as well as civilians.





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