A group of IDF air force, navy, and infantry cyber cadets recently took part in an intensive exercise modeled on the fantasy world of Harry Potter, the famous book series by J.K. Rowling, according to the IDF Blog.
The IDF computer wizards were split into four groups, each named after one of the school houses in Hogwarts, the school of witchcraft from the renowned fantasy series: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.
One of the exercises was modeled after Quidditch, the extremely rough semi-contact sport played by wizards and witches on flying broomsticks in the Harry Potter world. In another exercise, the soldiers dueled against Severus Snape and the Death Eaters. In the exercise, Snape launched the central attack and the Death Eaters attacked "from the edges". The IDF cyber warriors had to defend against incoming attack and launch a simultaneous counterattack.
The exercise reportedly aimed to teach soldiers to recognize that even basic error messages may be malicious. At one point, the IDF Blog said, the soldiers rushed to remove an infiltrator who had gained access to their systems – but in the process, they missed other attackers who were tearing down their virtual walls at the same time.
"Mistakes like these can lead to disastrous results", the blog reported. "If an attacker gains access, they may be able to take down the early warning systems that alert Israelis of incoming attacks".
“The main challenge is taking people not trained in warfare, who have never seen an enemy face-to-face, and getting them used to being on high alert. They need to understand that what they see may not just be background noise,” said the commander of the Advanced Officers' Technology Training Course, Major Nimrod Focsenianu. “[It is] like a combat soldier who hears a sound in the bushes and doesn’t assume it’s a cat.”
“We can’t look our assailant in the eyes and we don’t know when he or she will attack,” said Lieutenant Colonel Eli Gal, commander of the navy’s cyber unit. “Our working assumption is he is either already here, or he’s on the way.”
Israel, Iran in top 5 cybermilitaries
A senior IDF officer recently said cyber attacks against Israel were down overall in 2015 compared to previous years.
Asked about revelations that both British and American intelligence agencies had spied on Israeli officials and hacked Israeli military software, he insisted that Israel's secret codes "have not been decoded."
The official warned that the IDF was not immune to cyber-attacks but said the IDF does boast some of the most advanced cyber capabilities in the world.
"We are ahead of the rest of the world in digital capabilities by at least 15 years. We've integrated operational internet capabilities which enable any commander to do anything in any place," the officer explained.
Only four other world militaries have similar capabilities, he added: the United States, Britain, Germany – and Iran.