As part of a competition in the “Ofek” IAF computer unit, dozens of soldiers tried to break into the unit’s protected database. The goal: to increase awareness and promote developments in the field
Nadav Berger | Translation: Eden Sharon
Mere moment before hundreds of aliens invaded the earth threatening to destroy humanity, dozens of “Ofek” soldiers broke into the aliens’ computer databases and prevented the attack. This fictional scenario was a part of the OFHACK cyber competition that was held yesterday, aiming at increasing awareness for cyber-attacks. During the activity, dozens of the unit’s developers attempted to break into different databases created especially for the contest.
“Ofek” develops operational systems which stand at the frontline of operational activity – from management and control systems to air defense batteries to fighter jets. “As every break-in can seriously disrupt the activity of the force, the soldiers of ‘Ofek’ know they must create top-level security systems. The cyber threats are increasing by the day”, said Major Gil, Head of “Ofek” Cyber Section. “Hacking is a major threat, as most of the time it is hard to track down the hackers, their activity has relatively high international legitimacy and it does not require that many resources. On the other hand, due to the increasing threats, the unit has also significantly increased the amount of resources allocated to deal with the problem”.
Operating in tandem with the development processes, a number of IAF teams are in charge of monitoring the systems of the force, tracking their activity and block any break-in attempt.
Attack to Protect
“We want the teams to get into the hackers’ heads and realize how their developments can affect the abilities of a certain hacker to break into the systems”, explains Captain Haim, a team leader in “Ofek”. “We want to raise awareness and to encourage them to think critically”, adds Major Gil.
The competition is now in its sixth year, and has already become a tradition in the unit. In 2014, the system that was developed for the competition was used as the preliminary challenge for the international cyber challenge held in Israel. Due to the system’s success, it will be used as the main challenge in this year’s challenge. “I’m usually busy with the thinking of how I can protect the systems I develop and for the first time I’m experiencing with the side of the attacker. My understanding about certain things that can cause security breaches was sharpened as I tried to use them in my favor”, explains Captain Liran, Head of the development team in the unit. “When I step into the hacker’s shoes, I suddenly understand what goes through his head as he tries to disturb my activity”, adds SSgt Omer, a soldier in the unit.