The IDF (Zahal) uses Game of Thrones to train its soldiers to defend from advanced cyber attacks.
Varys’s little birds have reported whispers of White Walker activity beyond the wall. The leader of the White Walkers’ cyber attack team has devised a way to take control of the Dothraki Hordes’ website. Viruses have overrun the Dothraki computer systems and all of their files have been destroyed.
This is the scenario that a group of select IDF (Zahal) Cyber Defense cadets were thrown into during a recent intensive training exercise. During the exercise, soldiers from the Israeli navy, air force, ground, and cyber forces were split into multiple houses; each representing a house from the popular books and HBO TV show, “Game of Thrones”. Each house is led by a cadet.Their mission – to restore the destroyed files and fend off the White Walkers.
“The fantasy environment simulates how others may attack in a large scale cyber operation, and gives the soldiers valuable experience defending against a wide range of threats,” said Maj. Nimrod Focsenianu, the commander of the advanced officers’ technology training course. “The exercise gives soldiers valuable experience in fending off threats that they might not see often in real life.” The exercise is relentless. Every time the soldiers solve one problem, the exercise organizers throw others their way.
For the cadets leading the teams, this exercise is their first opportunity to apply the lessons in command and leadership learned in the IDF (Zahal)’s Advanced Officers’ Technology Training Course to an actual command post. They have to imbue in their soldiers the mentality of warfare. Nowadays, an innocent looking website can take complete control of computer systems in seconds without anybody knowing the attacker was ever there. Everything is a possible threat. During wartime, a compromised system would have far reaching effects.
Israel faces hundreds of thousand of cyber attack attempts daily – and as computers and networks get more advanced, the cyber threats have gotten more advanced as well. Modern cyber attacks are incredibly difficult to discover and can stay in the background quietly for long periods of time while collecting valuable information.
The IDF (Zahal) has been investing significant resources to counter this threat. In June 2015, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the IDF (Zahal) Chief of Staff, announced the establishment of a new “Cyber Command” that will oversee all activity in the virtual domain. The command is expected to will combine the capabilities of the Military Intelligence Directorate and the C4I Telecommunication Directorate. “The key is teamwork. In the cyber world, there are no bullets. There are no easy ways to recognize your enemies. Success requires the combined effort of programmers, engineers, and cyber warfare experts,” explained Major Itay Sagi.
The job of these cadets will be to defend against the constantly developing threat of cyber attacks. When they graduate officers school, and receive their placements, it will no longer be a simulation. While they won’t have to face off against the White Walkers, the real threats are just as serious.