IDF’s cyber elite can become threat once army service is completed

There is nothing Israel can do if the tech sold is used for nefarious purposes.

By World Israel News Staff

Israel has some of the greatest offensive and defensive cyber professionals in the world. In particular, Israel Intelligence Unit 8200 and its more secretive sister unit, known only as Unit 81, possess the ability to hack anything from a cell phone to a nuclear reactor, reports The Jerusalem Post.

The report says training and identifying the talented young people who fill those units doesn’t come without the risk of their skills being put to the wrong purpose once their service is completed.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense tries to minimize the possibility of its tech falling into the wrong hands. For example, the ministry controls the licenses of the private NSO Group that developed Pegasus spyware, a hacking software that helps governments hunt down pedophiles, human traffickers, and terrorists.

However, there is ultimately little Israel can do if the tech is sold to people who use it for nefarious purposes, such as committing human rights violations, says The Jerusalem Post.

The report quotes investigative journalist Ronen Bergman, who says that the government can’t stop the alumni of 8200 or Unit 81 from taking their highly valued knowledge wherever they please.

“Once these cyber experts leave Israel and work for non-Israeli companies, then whatever you say about the supervision and the regime of inspection by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, it’s not there,” Bergman told the Two Nice Jewish Boys podcast.

“Meaning, if [the oversight in Israel is] too weak, not rigid enough, not strict enough, not severe enough – it’s nothing when they are outside of Israel.”

Bergman argues that what happened to the firm who developed the Pegasus spyware proves that the threat is real.

According to Bergman, the firm recently became suspicious after many of its employees suddenly decided to resign. With the help of private detectives, the company discovered that they had been recruited by a United Arab Emirate’s private cybersecurity firm called Dark Matter.

Bergman doesn’t believe that these alumni are taking these foreign cybersecurity jobs to harm the Jewish State.

“Young veterans of 8200 or 81, offensive cyber experts who are the target for headhunters who are saying to them: ‘Look, you can earn maybe 70-100,000 shekels in Israel a month working for Israeli companies doing offensive cyber, but if you go abroad to where I, the headhunter, invite you, you will have a full relocation, a view of the sea, and up to 100,000 dollars excluding bonuses a month.'”

“Just imagine, that guy is 23 years old, 25 … these are excellent, extremely smart people but not very mature; they need to be very strong to say no. And some of them didn’t,” he said.

Bergman says that the onus of responsibility falls on Israel for failing to instill the fear of proliferation into the hackers serving in units 8200 and 81.