A 20-year-old former soldier was revealed Wednesday to have hacked into the IDF’s central computer system, breaking past cyber defenses in what he claims was an attempt to highlight security loopholes.
The soldier, named only as “Sergeant D,” admitted to the breach as part of a plea bargain with the IDF’s military prosecutor after he was apprehended by military police earlier this year, Channel 10 reported.
According to the report, D will face a significantly lighter punishment than usually meted out for a “serious crime” of this nature due to an acceptance of his claim that he only carried out the hack in order help the IDF improve its cyber defenses.
According to the plea bargain, D, described as a “computer genius,” repeatedly tried to warn his officers during his time in the army that the current cybersecurity measures were not up to scratch. He was reportedly ignored due to his low rank.
After leaving the army, he decided to prove his point by accessing the IDF’s mainframe from his civilian computer at home, the report said.
The military’s cyber defense program is primarily responsible for protecting the army’s own systems from attack while civilian networks are under the purview of the National Cyber Authority and the Shin Bet security service’s cyber unit.
Last year the IDF abandoned plans for a unified Cyber Command meant to bring the military’s online activities under one roof and decided to keep its cyber defense arm separate from its intelligence collection division.
The plan for the unified Cyber Command was conceived under the belief that the cybernetic front was a sufficiently independent area that it demanded its own consideration.
However, after two years of discussion and work, the military opted to scrap that proposal and instead keep the existing dynamic of having the military’s defensive capabilities remain in the army’s Computer Service Directorate, also known as the C4I Directorate, and keeping the elite, secretive Unit 8200 inside Military Intelligence.
The hush-hush elite 8200 unit — roughly equivalent to the National Security Agency in the US — is highly regarded for its computer prowess and seen as a major incubator of Israel’s high-tech startup culture.