IDF shifts focus to cyber warfare

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – which now classifies cyber warfare as a “central strategic pillar” – has reportedly established a military intelligence (MI) unit capable of engaging in both defensive and offensive digital warfare.

“The pursuit of options for sabotaging the core computers of foes like Iran, along with mechanisms to protect its own sensitive systems, were unveiled last year by the military intelligence chief, Major-General Amos Yadlin,” confirmed Dan Williams of Reuters.

“[And] the [current] government has since set cyber warfare as a national priority up there with missile shields and preparing the homefront to withstand a future missile war.”

According to Williams, the MI branch, which traditionally specialized in wiretaps, satellite imaging and electronic espionage, now oversees a dedicated cyber warfare unit staffed by conscripts and officers.

“Israel’s defense priorities suggest it may be [moving] away from open confrontation with the Iranians, whose nuclear facilities are distant, numerous, dispersed and well-fortified,” speculated Williams.

“Even were its warplanes to manage a successful sortie, Israel would almost certainly suffer retaliatory Iranian missile salvoes worse than the short-range rocket attacks of Lebanese and Palestinian guerrillas in 2006 and 2009.”

Nevertheless, a senior military source told Williams that Defense Ministry planners were still debating the “relative merits” of engaging in extensive cyber warfare.  

“It’s deniable, and it’s potent, but the damage it delivers is very hard to track and quantify,” said the source. 

“[In contrastl], when you send in the jets, the target is there, and then it’s gone.”