IDF holds surprise cyber defense drill simulating critical systems shutdown

IDF holds surprise cyber defense drill simulating critical systems shutdown

Wednesday’s exercise is the third unannounced inspection of the military’s readiness under army chief Aviv Kohavi

Judah Ari Gross 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)

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday launched a surprise cyber defense exercise simulating an attack that shuts down critical computer systems, the military said.

This was the third surprise check of the military’s readiness under IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, who entered his position nearly a year ago.

“During the exercise, hundreds of command and control computer stations were disabled in IDF units,” the military said.

The computer systems of senior officers and command centers were among those shut down in the exercise. The drill was managed by a small team of information systems and cyber defense experts, the army said.

The IDF said the exercise was meant to test “the functioning of the army during a cyber attack and the disabling of vital information systems.”

Though a specific enemy was not identified, Israeli officials have warned that Iran and its proxies are working to develop advanced cyber attack capabilities.

“The exercise… allows for our cyber defense units to develop their learning and to improve in responding to a multi-level cyber event,” said the head of the IDF’s Cyber Defense Division, who for security reasons can only be referred to by his rank and first Hebrew letter of his name, Brig. Gen. “Dalet.”

In November, Kohavi held the previous surprise military exercise, in northern Israel, with thousands of conscripted soldiers and reservists taking part.

“The troops simulated the rapid turnover from everyday to emergency, from defense to attack; the processes of gathering troops and weapons; taking out equipment; and the movement of forces through the region,” the army said at the time.

November’s surprise drill was held in the Jezreel Valley and Upper Galilee in northern Israel; it was meant to test the military’s readiness for the sudden outbreak of war in the north, specifically against the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian proxies in the region.

Israeli officials have recently warned that Iran appears to be taking increasingly aggressive actions in the Middle East, a situation that threatens to bring about a large regional conflict.

In September, Kohavi ordered his first surprise inspection of military preparedness, testing the navy’s ability to react quickly to a maritime threat along the country’s northern coast.

Those drills took place in and around the navy’s Haifa Base, which is home to a wide variety of naval vessels, including small patrol boats, warships and submarines, all of which took part in the exercise.

The Israeli Navy is expected to play a key role in any future war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, as the organization has identified Israel’s offshore natural gas platforms and other maritime locations as key targets.

The Israeli military has come under fire in recent years with allegations that it is not prepared for a full-scale war.

These concerns were first raised publicly by the former military ombudsman, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, who accused the IDF of failing to abide by its own standards and covering up its inadequacies.

The IDF has denied Brick’s allegations, maintaining that it is at its highest level of preparedness for war in decades, while at the same time taking steps to improve its readiness.

read more: