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30024059_mBy ARIE EGOZI

The Israel defense forces (IDF) decision to officially establish a cyber command is a symbolic act. According to foreign sources Israel has been active in cyber wars for years.

It’s almost the perfect paradox. While countries develop very deadly weapons – some non conventional – some of these countries also develop silent agents – deception tools that at the end of the day may result in leaving the triggers unsqueezed.

According to recent press reports, some years ago Israel has managed to slow down the Iranian race to the bomb, by using a “worm” type computer virus that caused havoc in the Iranian centrifuge facilities that are working to produce the needed uranium for a nuclear weapon.

Israel has not reacted to the stories that claimed who was behind that cyber attack, but the Iranians had to confirm that the “worm” was very effective in slowing down their nuclear programme.

This story is a very rare indication to the “parallel war” fought in the dark and far from any defined war zone.

In recent years the , the Lebanese claimed that they found artificial rocks on mountains overlooking some of the most strategic areas in the country. They showed photographs of equipment that were concealed in the “rocks” and these could not leave any doubt about its origin. Israel again did not react but the writing was on the mountain. Before that, the Lebanese claimed that the Israelis penetrated their cellular infrastructure as part of a vast espionage effort.

Other publications leaked to Wikileaks , claimed that the attack on the nuclear facility in Syria in 2007 , was performed by Israel and that the Israeli air force fighter jets penetrated the Syrian airspace after Israel managed to take control of the country’s early warning system. The nuances are important – not blinding the Syrian radar but taking control over it, in a way that it did not have any chance of detecting the Israeli fighters.

All these are of course leaked reports and “wild” stories of journalists but if only some are true,  the trend is crystal clear – in order to win a war or to perform a “surgical” attack it’s not enough to have fighter jets with precision bombs . There is a need to manipulate the enemy, deceive it , cause confusion and then attack and get out without meeting any resistance.

The next paragraph is very general on purpose , and is based on adding some known facts together – Israel is a high tech superpower. The IDF and the Mossad have special units that develop tools for cyber wars. These units are trying to be at least one step ahead of anyone else that is considered and may be considered a potential enemy.

It can be assumed that like in other areas, the Israeli need resulted in quantum jumps ahead. It happened with unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) that were needed for wars. It makes sense that the need to supply the right tools for Cyber war for the armed forces and secret services, also resulted in positioning Israel at least one generation ahead of its adversaries .

Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. According to press reports, it destroyed convoys of arms on their way to the Gaza strip while they travelled in the desert of Sudan. According to press reports, it managed to intercept shipments of arms to the Hezbollah in Lebanon and bring the ships that carried it to a ready “traps”.

There is no doubt – cyber wars are fought in the Middle East on a daily basis and they are becoming more complex, more sophisticated and more focused.

Part of the “trick” in such military cyber wars, is to let the enemy think that nothing happens. Unlike in many cases of electronic warfare , when the enemy gets indications that something wrong happens , in the cyber war,  the target is to keep the radar and other early warning sensors’ operators calm until the attack is over. The surprise is complete and swift.

While Israel is continuing to purchase and manufacture the most advanced weapon systems, experts in the new type of warfare are looking for the next hole in the shield. This is a war between minds, between “wild” concepts that are based on long experience but also on the fact that the most advanced national facilities of every country rely on computers. The “fire walls” are there but the new warriors look for the smallest crack and to believe recent report they find them.

Can cyber attacks win a war? Can these attacks become a substitute to real weapon systems? Talking with the experts you get a somewhat contradicting picture – while some say that this is the shape of wars to come, others say that this is only a complementary asset.

But one thing is obvious – the higher the importance of the designated target, the bigger the effort put into the “cyber weapons”.

The dilemma about cyber wars has a great resemblance to the one concerning UAVs. Should an air force invest in more manned platforms or instead channel the limited budgets to additional more sophisticated UAV’s?  The two dilemmas will be in the air for years to come because there is no general, not to mention a politician that can or actually wants to make the decision.

But the dilemmas are self solved. The UAVs will take over many tasks of manned aircraft in an increasing pace. It’s enough to see the growing number of unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVS) programmes to understand the trend. The same thing is applicable to cyber war systems. These will become more complex and more sophisticated. Will they replace fighter jets, missiles and tanks?

Judging by the alleged use of cyber wars in the Middle East in recent years, the answer is positive. It will be a slow process but is will happen as this is the ultimate war tool. To attack the enemy, destroy him without him getting any warning or understanding what hit him.

The “weapons” of this new type of war are being developed in secret facilities and by teams of geniuses that will probably never hold an assault rifle but will in spite win many wars.

In the middle east, cyber wars are no longer something vague but are part of the everyday fighting. This, of course, if the press reports are true.