IDF cyber defense system, three other classified projects win top security prize

Defense minister announces winners ahead of awards ceremony, warns: ‘The best minds are working to find breakthrough solutions against those who seek to harm us’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Illustrative. An IDF soldier from the C4I Corps types on a computer. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative. An IDF soldier from the C4I Corps types on a computer. (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday announced this year’s recipients of Israel’s top security prize, including a “groundbreaking” cyber defense system aimed at giving Israel “freedom of action in the digital space,” and three other completely classified projects.

The award, which is named for the commander of Israel’s pre-state Hagana militia Eliyahu Golomb, is presented each year to people and projects deemed to have made a significant contribution to the country’s security.

The development of the cyber defense system was led by the so-called Spectrum Division in the Israel Defense Force’s Computer Service Directorate, which is tasked with the defense of the electromagnetic spectrum, or radio waves. The development and deployment of the system also involved the Air Force, Military Intelligence and Navy.

The Defense Ministry said the “unique” system makes “groundbreaking use of the world’s most advanced technologies in order to guarantee the IDF security and freedom of action in the digital space, in the face of advanced and developing cyber threats.”

The other three projects that won the prize this year remain largely classified. Both involved at least two security organizations.

One was a joint effort by the Shin Bet security agency and the Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200.

Soldiers of the IDF Intelligence Unit attend a ceremony for the appointment of the new chief of Intelligence at Glilot military base, near Tel Aviv, March 28, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The ministry said the goal of the project was “the development and implementation of a unique technological system that enables intelligence and security superiority in many sectors.”

“The system is groundbreaking and has a significant contribution to the intelligence community’s efforts in the face of security challenges,” it added.

Another project was a joint effort between the Mossad spy agency and Unit 8200, which has a “significant and unique strategic contribution to the security of the country, embodying within it technological innovation and groundbreaking and extraordinary operational courage,” the ministry said.

The last was a project that involved the Military Intelligence’s Special Operations Division, Air Force, Navy, Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael defense firms.

The ministry said the fourth project was “an extraordinary technological solution which led to a breakthrough in operational capability… that directly contributes to maintaining the qualitative advantage of the IDF and the security of the State of Israel.”

“The project combines a number of innovative and unique technological developments made possible by the vision, determination and creativity of all project partners,” the ministry added.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant holds a meeting on Israel’s top security prize, on May 31, 2023. (Defense Ministry)

The awards ceremony will be held June 13 at the President’s Residence and is due to be attended by Gallant, President Isaac Herzog, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Defense Ministry Director-General Eyal Zamir.

Gallant hailed this year’s winners for their contributions to the security of the country.

“I am happy to approve the committee’s recommendations, and to award the Israel Defense Prize to a series of security projects that maintain the qualitative advantage of the State of Israel in the face of the various security challenges, and strengthen the position of the defense establishment as a world power,” Gallant said.

“All our enemies should know that in the security organizations, the best minds are working to find breakthrough solutions against those who seek to harm us,” he added.

Last year’s winners included Israel’s Ofek spy satellites. The others were also mostly classified. Among the winners in 2019 were the Mossad agents behind the operation to steal Iran’s nuclear archive the year before.

The prize has been awarded annually by the president since 1958. Though the prize is sometimes given for lifetime achievement, generally the recipients are responsible for the creation of a new piece of technology or a specific operation.

Over the years, the prize has been awarded both to individuals, like Uzi Gal who received the first Israel Defense Prize in 1958 for creating the Uzi submachine gun, and to entire teams, like the group responsible for the development of the TROPHY anti-missile system that protects Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers, which won in 2014.

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