There are a lot of secrets kept in Israel’s intelligence community, but this is not one of them: Israel aims to become a cybersecurity superpower, and to do that, the Israeli military is launching an ambitious program to groom the next generation of cyberwarriors while they are still in high school.
The little Jewish state that prides itself on the sobriquet “Start-up Nation” has set cybersecurity as a national goal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a prominent cheerleader.
Netanyahu sees cyberspace as both Israel’s new frontier and new frontline. The prime minister wants Israel to not only have the best military wonks in the world, but to partner Israel’s high-tech military with the country’s venture capitalists and young computer talent to offer clients defensive strategies against the kind of hack attacks that have hit eBay and Target, South Korean banks, Google in China and Saudi Arabia’s state oil company.
At a conference here earlier this month devoted to cybersecurity, Netanyahu described the Israeli military’s cyber-units as locked in constant battle with “hacktivists” and state-sponsored actors, such as Iran, in daily duels that take place in dark rooms in front of computer screens.
The Israeli prime minister said the cyber-fight reached a peak during the 50-day Gaza war this summer.
The cyberattacks included attempts to disrupt the country’s electrical grid and enter systems guarded by the Israel Defense Forces. A group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army managed to hack into the IDF spokesperson’s Twitter account and falsely claim Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor was “leaking” after a rocket attack.