Cyber War gets real as Israel strikes back

Iron Dome interception in Sderot Photo Whaleoil Media

In Orson Scott Card’s remarkable novel Enders Game, the military order defending Earth from alien invasion have a predilection for Jewish strategists. “Jews don’t lose” is the adage of the Battle School’s commanders. Certainly, for the last 70 years, the Jewish state has shown a military tenacity and ability to defeat overwhelming opposition that has defied all odds.

Israel has also developed military technology, such as the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system that even its U.S. allies thought was “doomed to fail”. So it should perhaps not be surprising that Israel is pioneering strategy on the battlefield of the 21st century: cyber-warfare. quote.

The escalating global threat of cyber attacks against nation-states took a turn yesterday when Israel’s military announced that they had “thwarted an attempted Hamas cyber offensive against Israeli targets. Following our successful cyber defensive operation, we targeted a building where the Hamas cyber operatives work.”

The tweet included the highlighted image of the targeted building. “HamasCyberHQ.exe has been removed,” the tweet concluded.

“Hamas no longer has cyber capabilities after our strike,” an IDF spokesperson told reporters. end quote.

Make no mistake, this is an extraordinary turn in cyber-warfare. Previously, cyber-defence has been predicated entirely on trying to prevent intrusions, rather like manning the walls of a fortress and trying to hold back besieging forces. Israel has lead a sortie from the gates and destroyed the enemy’s siege weapons. quote.

This is the first known example of an immediate, real-time military force response to a cyber threat or attack, although the U.S. did target and kill ISIS hacker chief Junaid Hussain in 2015. The British citizen was targeted by a drone strike after leaking information about U.S. personnel online.

At the time, a U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson said that Hussain “was involved in recruiting ISIS sympathizers in the West to carry out lone-wolf style attacks. He had significant technical skills and expressed a strong desire to kill Americans … He no longer poses a threat. We have taken a significant threat off the battlefield and have made it very clear [to] ISIS leadership we are going to target them … just as we’re targeting their communications nodes, logistics nodes and military equipment.”

Now, with this immediate response to a cyber threat, “the cyber defense abilities of Israel mean attempts by the Hamas terror group to carry out Cyber-attacks fail time after time,” an unnamed intelligence official was quoted as saying. end quote.

So, what does this bode for the future? quote.

A precedent has now been set for immediate military retaliation against cyber attack. No doubt the regime in Teheran will be taking note. Iran’s offensive cyber capabilities are on the increase and could well now be seen as legitimate targets as the U.S. moves military forces into the region. end quote.

forbes


There is ample precedent elsewhere for surgical strikes at critical infrastructure in conflicts which never quite escalate to full-scale war. Interestingly, Israel have earlier provided textbook examples: the 1981 bombing of an Iraqi nuclear facility. India and Pakistan have sniped at each with such strikes for decades. The thought of having to look over their shoulders for an incoming tomahawk cruise missile may well cause would-be cyber-combatants to reassess their strategies in the future.

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