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Israeli Military Prepares for Cyberwar by Staging an Alien Invasion

It was basically "Independence Day."
February 26, 2015, 8:38pm
Independence Day. Image: 20th Century Fox​

​The Israeli Defense Force ran a training exercise earlier this week in which it pretended to defend against an alien invasion by hacking and sabotaging the spaceships' computer systems.

"Lights appear in the distance," opens an unreasonably dramatic IDF press r​elease from a spokesperson I'm sure has a screenplay to pitch you. "It's not clear how many spaceships are already aiming their bows at planet Earth. All the citizens ran deep into shelters and sealed the doors and windows. The hours begin to pass and the Israeli Defense Force is tasked with a rescue mission. How will our forces face an alien invasion whose mission it is to destroy the world?"

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The answer is a cyberattack, which is very exciting and a little familiar because it's quite literally a plot point in the underappreciated Roland Emmerich masterpiece film Independence Day, starring Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith.

Israel doesn't really think that an alien invasion is a likely enough scenario worth training for. The purpose of the exercise, Lt. Col. Meir explained in a statement, was to make Ofek ("Horizon"), the technology unit of the Israeli air force, understand weaknesses in systems they're developing by walking a mile in the enemy's shoes, meaning hackers. Luckily, the aliens also use binary.

"We decided to fit the exercise to generation-Y, which loves challenges, and so we also prepared the alien framing story," Meir said.

Israel has faced increased cyberattacks in recent years, which spike during its seasonal offensives, like last year's operation ​Protective Edge that devastated Gaza.

Earlier this month, IT security company Trend Micro p​ublished a report that described two recent, separate but interconnected cyberattacks on Israel: Operation Arid Viper and Operation Advtravel. The former used a pornographic video to distract victims from the fact that it's installing malware and stealing data.

In fact, cyberattacks on Israel have become so frequent that earlier this month Prime Minister Benjamin Neta​nyahu announced that Israel will establish a new "national operative cyber defense authority" to work alongside the Israel National Cyber Bureau (established in 2012) "to strengthen the resilience of organizations and sectors in the economy."

TheMa​rker reported that this civil authority will get a budget of 100-200 million NIS (about $25-50 million), a staff of 200-250, and will be subordinate to the Prime Minister's Office.

Alien invasions, for now, will fall under the jurisdiction of the military.