Information Warfare: Israel Plays Rough

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July 12, 2017: The Israeli domestic intelligence service (Shin Bet, similar to the British MI5) recently confirmed what was already widely known among hackers; trying to hack Israeli networks will often trigger instant counter-hacks that will at least halt the hackers with unexpected error messages or, worse, generate a powerful counter-hack directed against the attackers system. The worst result is that, as several thousand foreign hackers have already discovered, the Israelis will identify who you are and where you are operating from. If the hacker is in a nation that has extradition or similar arrangements with Israel the hacker can start worrying about getting arrested or, at the very least, being placed under investigation and added to a list of the usual suspects.

Shin Bet could not hide the fact that it was expanding its Cyber War operations and recruiting additional personnel. So announcements like this are considered part PR and part recruiting. Since 2010 various Israeli government and military organizations have been seeking additional staff for new Cyber War efforts that can detect and thwart enemy hackers. This included seeking expert hackers willing to train to operate in the field with Israeli commando units. That new Cyber War unit was actually part of military intelligence and sought recruits from those already in the military as well as civilians.

Israel had long had troops dedicated to Cyber War activities, but in 2010 they introduced a new twist to this. Israel used the same screening and recruiting techniques they had developed for commando units to find suitable recruits for an elite Cyber War unit. Thus the Israelis were not just seeking men (or women) with the right technical skills, but also with the mental toughness characteristic of the regular commandos. The new Cyber War unit handled the most difficult and dangerous Cyber War situations. An example would be a Cyber War attack using an unknown and seemingly devastating new technique. For that you needed a Cyber War commando unit available to send against the problem. Same with an enemy Cyber War target that has to be disrupted, or simply investigated. You needed a unit to do the job because this unit had already been recruited and trained to be the best of the best. Similarly, if you were sending in regular commandos on a raid, to steal technology (something Israel has already done several times), several of the Cyber War commandos would go along. Already known to be tough minded, but possessing high technical skills, the Cyber War guys could keep up with the regular commandos, and quickly sort out the enemy technology, and take, or destroy, the right items.

But in the meantime Israeli Cyber War organizations had been ordered to be more aggressive in dealing with hackers and hacking attempts. There was a certain urgency to this because Islamic terrorists were developing better hacking skills, often because many recruits came from Western countries where young Moslem men have more access to computers and college level training in computer science and security. Groups like ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and al Qaeda found that they could use many of these Western recruits who had skills, but were not willing to carry out suicide attacks or engage in armed combat. Apparently many of these Islamic cyber terrorists were first detected and identified when they tried to hack Israeli systems. Israel now has Cyber War intelligence sharing arrangements (official or unofficial) with most Western nations containing Moslem minorities.

By going public about some of this counter-hacker activity Shin Bet may also cause some of the less disciplined Islamic cyber terrorists to get angry enough to make an attack and get caught. Whatever works.

 

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