Since 1948, the IDF (Zahal) has fought on three battlegrounds: land, sea and air. Now, in 2013, cyberspace has become the newest battlefield as hackers try to hurt Israel virtually.
A revolution is taking place in the IDF (Zahal), but it’s probably not one you’ve heard about in the news. The IDF (Zahal) is transforming into a military that is prepared to defend itself from enemies on the newest battlefield: cyberspace. The IDF (Zahal)’s Teleprocessing Corps is at the center of this revolution, fortifying the military’s cyber defense against the threats of enemy hackers, while developing technologies that will make it easier to defend the country on the ground.
The unit responsible for cyber defense and development of the latest technology is the Lotem-C4i Technological Division. Populated by thousands of experts from the military and academia, the division has become one of the largest largest security organizations in Israel. Its soldiers come from fields like engineering, mathematics, information technology and more.
Lieutenant Colonel Eric, Lotem’s Chief Technology Officer, has the job of adapting technology for use in the army. “How can I look at a target – or tens, hundreds or thousands of targets – identify the enemy in real time, and aim the weapon exactly at that point?” he asks. “How can I make sure a commander gets the most advanced data in the shortest amount of time?” These questions represent the Lotem division’s essential challenges – and the source of inspiration for its innovators.
Lt. Col. Eric says new military technologies are developed through two different approaches. “We look at the technologies that are available and try to imagine scenarios where they would be useful,” he says. “Other times we take the opposite approach and look at the problems we face and try to create technologies to solve them.”
The visions for the future are endless and arriving much faster than ever before. “The 18-year-old soldiers who are drafted into this unit come here with much more advanced knowledge than what the IDF (Zahal) was using even 10 years ago,” Lt. Col. Eric says.
Lotem is looking at ways to give combat soldiers the benefit of full field training, while preventing the risk of training accidents. By using innovations like augmented reality devices – technology that provides information on the physical features of objects in the field – the military saves the cost of deploying manpower and equipment, an important factor in an era of massive budget cuts. Google Glass, a popular augmented reality device, is one technology that could be used in the battlefield within the next few years.
Cyber threats to the IDF (Zahal), in the form of hacking, are very serious. The IDF (Zahal) depends on computer systems both in its day-to-day operations and in emergency situations. Brigadier General Eyal Zelinger, commander of the C4i Technological Division, says his division, which used to function as a command and control center, has now become the driving force in making operations happen. “If our system goes down, the army has a big problem,” he says.
In order to minimize this challenge, the IDF (Zahal) has taken measures to protect itself. In 2011, the IDF (Zahal) created an official Cyber Defense Division. A cyber defense war room was created and now runs around the clock, 24 hours a day and seven days a week to deal with the many threats to the system. Cyber defense officers have been placed in every section of the army. Furthermore, incoming C4i soldiers must take a three-month-long cyber defense course.
Most recently, in May 2013, the IDF (Zahal) reacquired two large software firms that had their start in the IDF (Zahal), but later left the military. After the firms returned to the military, the IDF (Zahal) combined them into a unit called Matzpan – a Hebrew acronym standing for Army Command, Control and Management Systems.
The division’s constant advancements have allowed the IDF (Zahal) to advance its abilities in a short amount of time. “Today we have attained the ability to hit ten times more targets than we did in the Second Lebanon War, and the accuracy to complete those operations faster,” Brig. Gen. Zelinger says.
“What we do may sound like fiction, but it is becoming more and more of a reality.”