In an ever changing and interconnected world, the influence of computers is rapidly increasing. The IDF (Zahal) is training Israel’s youth to battle cyber threats even before they enter the military.
Israel has been called the “startup nation” and is distinguished for producing the highest number of entrepreneurs per capita in the world. As Israeli society becomes more connected to the internet, cyber threats are also becoming more prominent.
“When we look at data centers and information systems, they are almost entirely located in the cyber dimension. Everything can be attacked potentially. Everything is cyber,” said Maj. Gen. Uzi Moshkovitz, the head of the IDF (Zahal) Telecommunications Branch, in April. This puts a nation such as Israel at great risk because it faces constant threats from its enemies which try to breach this cyber infrastructure.
Cyber defense is also becoming increasingly important for the IDF (Zahal)’s Intelligence Corps. In order to prepare the next generation soldier for cyber warfare, the IDF (Zahal) has implemented programs to educate high school students in information technologies, computer science, and cyber defense.
A Higher Standard of Technology Education
Last year, the IDF (Zahal) implemented the Heights Program, a high school level education program for students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. “The program is designed to teach high school students the basics of cyber defense,” explained Lt. Col. S., Head of the Cyber Education Branch of the Intelligence Corps. By educating teachers and creating a demanding curriculum, the IDF (Zahal) is raising the bar for cyber education. “Better classes and better lessons will allow for better preparation to make the students into cyber defense experts,” Lt. Col. S. explained.
The 400 students who participate in the Heights Program face a challenging and demanding workload of 900 hours. On a daily basis, they learn programming languages, networking infrastructure, and how to deal with cyber threats. For example, the students analyze and research computer viruses to learn how they work, multiply, and infect computer systems. The coursework is on par with undergraduate technology programs and pushes students to become the best in the cyber field.
In order to create a high standard of learning in the classroom, the Cyber Education Branch puts its educators through two rigorous courses of 200 hours before they teach material to the students. Although the IDF (Zahal) trains the teachers, writes the syllabus, and provides the books and lessons, soldiers do not actually teach in the classroom.
Similarly, the Fulfillment Program works with students in an after school and summer camp setting. According to Lt. Col. S, cyber experts must possess the passion and curiosity to accomplish a variety of goals. The Fulfillment Program gives students the opportunity to make use of these qualities and refine their cyber skills.
Skills for the Future
The cyber programs contribute directly to the students’ military service and provide participants with invaluable skills for the future. “[These skills] can be used everywhere: In the army, in their academic courses later on, or in the high tech industry. It’s a high level of information and a lifetime of knowledge that the students are gaining,” concluded Lt. Col. S.
Overall, the Cyber Education Branch of the IDF (Zahal) Intelligence Corps is not only teaching students to bolster national defense, but also giving them precious expertise that enables them to succeed in the academic and working worlds after their army service.