US-Israel partnership deepens as cyber threats escalate

Cooperation between the United States and Israel in the cyber arena has intensified year after year, an Israel Defense Forces source told JNS.

The source spoke days after the head of the IDF’s J6 and Cyber ​​Defense Directorate Major General Lior Carmeli awarded a service medal to the US Cyber ​​Command Liaison Officer in Israel on November 23.

The liaison officer, named MM, was honored in recognition of his ongoing work to “promote strategic operational cooperation in the cyber arena,” the IDF said in a statement. “Since the creation of the American Cyber ​​Command, MM has directed and promoted cooperation with Israel. “

“There is strategic cooperation between the J6 and the Cyber ​​Defense Directorate, and the [U.S. Department of Defense’s] Cyber ​​Command, Lt. Col. O, a senior officer in the IDF’s Joint Cyber ​​Defense Division, told JNS.

Cooperation has been in place since the creation of the Cyber ​​Command and the Cyber ​​Defense Directorate, he added. “I can say that this is in line with the strategic partnership that exists between Israel and the United States. Another developing layer is the cybersphere. “

In recent months, the United States and Israel have suffered unprecedented cyberattacks, including the ransomware attack on the American company Colonial Pipeline, an American pipeline system originating in Houston; and a ransomware attack on the Israeli Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera.

“There is a whole battle going on in this sphere. In the United States and Israel, we can see a similarity in much of the events. This is a strategic challenge, ”said Lt. Col. O.

Even cyber incidents perceived as civilians can have strategic influence because of their ability to undermine national stability, he warned.

A view of the medal. Credit: IDF Spokesman’s Unit.

“These are civilian incidents, with minor military involvement, but the military can be trained because in both countries the military is the most powerful and important cyber organization,” said Lt. colonel O.

The decision to assign the liaison officer in November came after the IDF General Staff decided to recognize the extraordinary partnership in place.

“From the start, we [and the Americans] dealt with conceptual issues and moved on to larger issues that cannot be detailed, ”said Lt. Col. O.

The awards ceremony is the first time that a medal has been presented to a liaison officer, he noted, and aims to “show appreciation” for the cooperation in place.

“If you put it on a graph, the cooperation intensifies year by year,” he said. “It’s a by-product of technological development and threat development. I think six years ago the word ransomware was not in the everyday dialogue. Today everyone knows what it is. As technology and threats develop, the result is that cooperation also develops. “

“Exercises are a means, not an objective”

The cooperation is low-key, in the shadows, and is very important to the defense establishments of both countries.

“We are talking about strategic cooperation in all spheres of military activity,” the officer said.

It also includes joint training, with the largest joint cybernetic exercise, Cyber ​​Drome, which will take place virtually in 2020 due to the global pandemic.

During the 2019 exercise, dozens of Israeli cyber defenders from the Joint Cyber ​​Defense Division, as well as cyber defenders from the Intelligence Directorate, the Israel Air Force, the Israeli Navy and its ground forces, flew to the United States.

“In recent years, we have organized more than a few joint exercises,” said Lt. Col. O. “But the exercises are a means, not an objective. Ultimately, they are a means of improving capabilities and to do more things together.

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