Cyber threats are expected to have a central role in future wars, with military and civilian targets in the enemy’s sights. The force-wide Cybair Conference held in the IAF Center provided insight to the way this scenario will affect the IAF and the IDF as a whole

Eilon Tohar | Translation: Ofri Aharon

The year is 2022. Israel is plagued by a chain of disasters: a malfunction in the traffic light control system is causing lethal car accidents, thousands of citizens that live near the Palmahim desalination center suffer from dizziness and IAF aircraft cannot fire their arms. Are these incidental complications or is this a planned all-out attack?

These extreme scenarios were presented last week in the opening of the Cooperative Cybair Conference which was led by the IAF and the Computer Service Directorate, in order to illustrate what a “silent war” is likely to look like in the future. “Is this likely to happen? Probably not”, stated Lt. Col. Ronen Schneider, the Head of the Network Based Warfare Branch in the IAF Air Staff. “Could some of these scenarios occur partially? Probably. It may sound apocalyptic, but it’s easy to be frightened when the enemy is evasive, invisible and shape shifting. We have to ensure that no one will ever say, ‘How didn’t they’ – meaning us – ‘see the cyber-attack developing right in front of them?’. The silent war is already here”.

Is the "Silent War" Already Here?

Photo by: Adi Abu

IAF Chief of Staff: “This is an era of war against an invisible enemy”
The silent war isn’t conducted with tanks, guns and fighter jets, but with an advanced cyber system attack that includes hacks, malicious codes and other hacking attacks that are performed to stop systems from working, disrupt or control computers as part of combat strategy. It is not combatants standing at the forefront of the battle, but hackers with keyboards and exceptionally fast fingers. In an era where almost everything is computer and network based, whether in civilian or military fields, the possibilities of future cyber wars are practically infinite.

“We are currently in an era of a dramatic technological revolution that affects every layer of society – economics, culture and military. The speed of the developments and the changes is unbelievable. The IDF is in this revolution and our dependency on networks as a military- the need for operational intelligence information – is growing”, stated Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, Head of the Air Division, during the conference. “This is an era of war against an invisible, scattered enemy, technology develops for us and for the enemy and creates a wide network of opportunities, as well as threats. Historically – we are only in the beginning of the road, but we are going in that direction”.

Is the "Silent War" Already Here?

Photo by: Adi Abu

The IAF will strengthen its cyber abilities
Personnel from all of the IDF that deal with IT were invited to the conference. “We are deep in unique and specific period in which war is changing face. Nonetheless, we are captives of the idea of ‘before’. It is difficult to understand the world of ‘after'”, stated Col. Shay, Head of the IAF’s Computer Service Department. “The world is changing, it is changing very quickly. You were invited to this conference to understand that we are on the verge of entering a new world and in order to give you an idea from which you can continue developing our defense mechanisms in the future”.

Amongst others, Professor Maj. Gen. (Res’) Yitzhak Ben Israel, Chairman of the Israel Space Agency, that summarized the development of the world of cyber defense over of past few decades, and Buki Carmeli, Head of the National Cyber Defense Authority, who represented the authority responsible for cyber defense in the civilian field.

“There is a campaign here. We understand that we need to strengthen our offensive abilities in the coming years, but we cannot forget the field cyber defense that presents an intimidating issue, that we are conscious of”, added Brig. Gen. Kelman. “Cyber is an inseparable part of our power building process and we need to continue and develop. We cannot forget that the cyber dimension doesn’t stand alone and will forever be intertwined with other aspects – air, ocean, ground and underground. The organization of the cyber field in the IAF is dispersed and in the coming years we will have to look into and prepare the IAF simultaneously with the establishment of a Cyber Force”.

 

Is the "Silent War" Already Here?

Photo by: Adi Abu