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.
This article appeared at Tikun Olam.