How Israel is training the next generation of cyber soldiers

Israeli Soldiers

Israel is preparing the next generation of cyber soldiers to face the growing threat of cyber attacks against government and civilian targets by hostile countries.

To that end, the Israel Defense Forces ( IDF ) inaugurated a state-of-the-art cyber defense training school in August, located in a high-tech park in the city of Beersheba. The location is not accidental, since these soldiers develop skills coveted by the most innovative technology companies in the country. Returning to civilian life, they become part of the Israeli ” start-up nation ” described by Dan Senor and Saul Singer in a famous book.

“Here we make partnerships with Ben Gurion University, with information technology companies, and we work through the private sector located on our campus to create a new ecosystem in Israel,” Major Noam Bright, head of the science department, explains to The Journal Times. of computing from the IDF cyber security school.

What is the goal of the school?

“Our military is increasingly relying on key technology capabilities in order to succeed in the next war. This is one of the most important fields for the army. All of its processes, including human resources and logistics resources, are based on technology. What we’re doing here is taking 18-year-olds, most of them with no prior background in technology, and turning them into the most highly educated people in the field that can be. They are boys who come from all over Israel, both from the periphery and the center of the country, and from different backgrounds.

—How are the courses structured? How long do they last?

“We choose our students before they enter the army, through thinking tests. There are several courses and the longest lasts five and a half months. The cadets study from half past seven in the morning until 10 at night. But they don’t just study theory. They also practice from the first day of the course. They begin to deal with real problems in all of our courses.

And we have a unique method of learning. We let the students choose the way they want to learn. If they want to learn with the teacher or alone or in groups. In addition, they are not given notes, they receive a return from the commander. This is the way the student can improve. Israel’s new cyber training center in Beersheba. (Photo: Courtesy Israel Defense Forces)

—Why is it important for you to choose young people without computer skills and from different educational and socioeconomic backgrounds?

—Our obligation at the school is to give equal opportunities to all members of Israeli society. So much so that in our school 52% of our students are women. We know that, in the technological sector in civilian life, the reality is the other way around.

Our mission is to take people from the periphery, from the forgotten areas in Israel and give them the first opportunity to enter the technology sector. Train them from 0 to 100 in the courses. We also have a course for ultra-orthodox and students with autism spectrum disorders.

—How is the experience with these students turning out?

“It’s very special.” Two weeks ago the programming course ended and four students with autism spectrum disorders graduated. It was very, very special to see them always succeed on the course. In some cases, they even turned out to be the best.

—After leaving school, what branch of the army do cadets join?

—All branches of the Army: the Air Force, the Navy, and the ground forces, to create the best possible technological and operational system.

What are the benefits of being educated at school for soldiers returning to civilian life?

—Most of them, all of them actually, get tech careers, from QA analysts to DevOps (software development and IT operations) to programming. They join civilian life with a profession and, moreover, experience, something very important in the technological field. Employees, mostly veterans of military computer units, work at a cyber hotline facility at the Israel Computer Emergency Response Center (CERT) in Beersheba (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

—How do cadets put into practice the technological skills they have learned in the daily activities of the army?

“We teach them how to program software, how to do it right. How to make systems that have a high scale of users. How to deal with exceptions, with bugs that really affect the operational field. We teach them to prevent the Army from stopping working because there is an error in their system. And how to work in a group. We teach and test them on these topics during the course.

—Today there is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence. Do these new developments also teach?

—Here we also teach data engineering, and in the programming course, we teach them to develop algorithms, which are actually artificial intelligence and neural networks. And we teach them how to use them in the system they’re developing and how to deal with artificial intelligence.

—What is the biggest cyber threat facing Israel right now?

—There are many people who do not like Israel. So we have to be prepared for all kinds of threats.