The Story of Israel’s First Cyberwarfare Operation

Today, the Jewish state leads the world in its defensive and offensive cyberwarfare capabilities, and the IDF’s prestigious 8200 Unit is considered the destination of choice for young Israelis aspiring to careers in high-tech. But in the early 1990s, when Israel carried out its first digital operation, such an infrastructure did not exist, and “cyberwarfare” wasn’t in the vocabulary of militaries. The soldier responsible for the operation, identified only as Second Lieutenant B.—after his rank at the time—spoke with Yoav Zitun about what happened, although many of the details remain classified:

Second Lieutenant B. . . . was part of a small team in charge of drawing up a plan that would be the first of its kind in the IDF—secretly infiltrating a stronghold of one of Israel’s enemies and gaining access to a substantial intelligence source. This operation allowed Israel to get its hands on information that would remain useful years later, without sending a single soldier to risk his or her life, and all while remaining under the radar.

Instead of waiting for a bug in the enemy’s cyber system and “breaking in” during the short time window, the tactic the IDF had adopted prior, Lieutenant B. and his team wanted to enter through a blind spot [in digital security], take what they needed, and “exit” before they could be noticed. The target they were after at the time was one of five most wanted for the Intelligence Directorate.

Already as a young trainee, B. was plotting a largescale intel mission that none of the higher-ranking officers were aware of. “Nothing good ever comes out of closing a bunch of colonels and lieutenant colonels in a room and telling them to solve a problem,” he said. “All the good ideas, even in years past, came from lower ranks.” The new system the enemy was developing made B. understand that innovative tactics had to be brought up in order to collect data—and immediately he started brainstorming technological models.

For two whole years, B. and a few of his comrades recreated the system the enemy had at hand at the time, running endless tests to make sure what they had developed was accurate. The biggest concern was that they would get caught by the enemy, and someone on the other side of the screen would “turn off the lights forever,” and seal the data with a break-proof security system. . . . Since then, the tech gateway that B. and his team created has grown to be more advanced, and paved the way for other IDF cyber operations.

The operation succeeded, and the still-anonymous B. was awarded the Israel Defense Prize for his efforts.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Cyberwarfare, IDF, Israeli Security, Israeli technology


The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship