In each round of recruitments, the IDF aims to single out the most talented future fighters for its elite commando units, cadets' course, field units, and intelligence units. Now, the military is also seeking out youth who excel on the internet. The goal: to form a commando unit to protect Israel's virtual borders and beat back enemy infiltration into the country's databases from afar.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, the new unit is part of the intelligence department in Unit 8200, which is in charge of intelligence collection. As part of the IDF's preparation for future warfare, cyberspace warfare, the new unit is slated to provide defensive and collection capabilities and in computer, network, and communications wars, as well as carry out other active operations.
Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin places great importance on the subject, and therefore decided to appoint as the unit's commander Col. A., former commander of the special technology unit of the military intelligence. He will answer directly to Brig. Gen. N., commander of Unit 8200.
The unit is currently searching out candidates for the unit from within the military and from computer and internet whizzes from the outside.
The new battlefield, according to senior IDF officials, includes all technological systems: computers, communications networks, internet, mobile and landline phones, information databases, command grids, and other vital systems.
A majority of the national infrastructure rests on the virtual world: electricity, communications, government ministries, finance, and military systems. As such, hackers could potentially cause extensive and serious damage on the virtual front.
The basic working assumption in Israel is that superiority in the computerized field is critical to the State of Israel both in war and in peace.
In an exercise called "Turning Point 4" held a month ago, scenarios simulating a cyber attack on the country's computer and communications infrastructure were tested for the first time. Attacks of this type occurred on a small scale during Operation Cast Lead. However, government ministries were barely harmed, and their operations were stopped for a short time only.
The new cyber unit will focus on a couple of central areas: defending computer systems in Israel and intelligence collection from foreign networks.
The biggest concern is that hackers will attack Israel's computer systems. Senior officials say that this is the most extreme example of asymmetric warfare – a handful of hackers that can damage infrastructure and even paralyze an entire country.
The model for the new unit comes from the US, where President Barack Obama ordered the formation of a new military unit called Cyber Command. Heading the new American unit is General Keith Alexander, and it is manned by some 90,000 soldiers and civilians. Obama explained that protecting the US on the internet is one of the most difficult security and economic challenges facing the country.