According to former Israeli defense officer Chuck Freilich, despite having a population slightly larger than New York City, Israel’s status as a cyber superpower places it in a select group of world powers.
Former Israeli deputy national security adviser Freilich, a senior research fellow at the MirYam Institute and the Institute for National Security Studies, recently wrote a book on the issue titled “Israel and Cyber Threat: How the Startup Nation Became a Global Cyber Power.”
Israel has strong cyber capabilities, according to Freilich, a former senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School who now teaches at Columbia and Tel Aviv University. Israel has the same number of cyber start-ups as there are worldwide.
“What a startling statistic. It is the outcome of a genuinely exceptional contribution to the Israeli high-tech sector, and the cybersphere in particular, made by the defense establishment and intelligence organizations, according to Freilich.
According to him, graduates from intelligence agencies and the Israel Defense Forces’ cyber units, particularly Unit 81 and Unit 8200, enter the private sector and are a major source of new businesses. This serves as a catalyst for cyber innovation.
According to Freilich, another factor in the success of the local cyber scene is the funding of incubators and programs for technological innovation by the Israeli defense establishment.
The armed forces “identify and train Israel’s cyber personnel, and most critically, the very top-level personnel. A few geniuses can make all the difference in the cyber world, he continued.
According to Freilich, between 2011 and 2020, 100 former members of Unit 81 who served between 2003 and 2010 founded 50 start-up companies, with a total valuation of over $10 billion. That’s just 100 veterans, he added.
One further astounding fact is that the NSA [the U.S. Unit 8200 [its Israeli equivalent] is said to have 10,000 fewer employees than the National Security Agency, which employs roughly 40,000 people. Unit 8200’s work is primarily computer-based.
Israel is a small country compared to other world superpowers. In Israel, a few hundred to a thousand cyber employees are let go each year. 1,300 students from Chinese cyber schools will graduate in 2022. Consequently, we have a powerful cyber force.
Freilich claims that the key to this accomplishment is mandatory military service, pointing out that this gives the IDF the ability to find the best and the brightest by scouting high school databases and starting to find potential youths by the 10th grade.
One percent of the top high school graduates enroll in Talpiyot [a program that sends students to obtain BAs in mathematics and natural sciences as part of their duty] and Atuda [a program that allows them to study while delaying military service].
Talpiyot looks at the top 2% before starting a rigorous testing procedure. Only 10% of those 2% succeed, and the remaining 80% are further eliminated via a difficult aptitude testing procedure, according to Freilich.