Israel army unveils new cyber defense unit

2013-07-08 17:15:11 GMT2013-07-09 01:15:11(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

JERUSALEM, July 8 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli military offered Monday a peek into one of its most secretive bases, which houses a newly established unit tasked with defending its own networks against mounting attacks launched in cyberspace.

Teams of programmers and computer experts, aged 18 to 22, man the "Cyber War Room," situated at an undisclosed site in central Israel, where malicious cybernetic activities occurring worldwide are monitored around the clock.

Long gone are the days when cyber was the exclusive domain of computer "geeks" spending their nights and days hacking into data bases in the privacy of dimly-lit bedrooms. In the Israeli military, it has already received recognition as another dimension of warfare, alongside the bombers, ships and tank battalions.

"Cyber isn't just another means, but a dimension that exists all the time between and during wars," Brig. Gen. Ayala Hakim, commander of the Israeli Defense Forces's (IDF) Lotam Unit, which oversees cyberdefense operations, told Israel's Channel 10 during an interview Monday.

Israel is investing vast human and financial resources in defending against the immediate threat posed by computer network attacks launched daily on its strategic infrastructure, government ministries, military and intelligence community. The fear is that a major cyberattack could cripple the country's critical infrastructure, including utilities, banking and cellphone networks, among others.

To illustrate the scope of the phenomena, the government revealed it deflected a staggering 44 million attacks on its main online sites during a nine-day war with Islamist group Hamas in Gaza last November.

Last year, the IDF publicly acknowledged for the first time, in a post on its official blog, that it was engaged in both defensive and offensive cyberwarfare. On the defensive end, efforts are mainly focused on repelling attempts by enemy states, global militant networks and lone hackers from overseas to penetrate the military's computers, either for espionage or sabotage.

"The operations room enables us to monitor the great breadth of the Internet at a single focal point," explained the Israeli military official. "We look at what is happening to us via a proactive approach and by gathering open intelligence. We assess our situation."

Like other cyber units operating in Israel's defense institution, including in the intelligence community, the soldiers of the new Cyber War Room constantly seek to increase the nimbleness of their response to identify and prevent an attack, and exploit it to launch a counterattack.

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