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With ‘Flame,’ Israel Is Playing With Fire

But how effectively can computer viruses forestall military action?

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An Iranian nuclear fuel manufacturing facility.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

“Cyber ambiguity” is the nice phrase—a play on Israel’s famed “nuclear ambiguity”—that the Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz coined as the Jewish state’s policy. Israel didn’t confirm that it created “Flame,” the new computer malware found spying on Iran’s computers, but it did everything else to hint that it probably had something to do with it. The IDF just revealed that it is “consistently and relentlessly in cyberspace, is collecting intelligence and protecting the IDF networks,” as well as occasionally “execut[ing] attacks and other information operations.” It’s been leaked that Stuxnet, the earlier malware that actually harmed enrichment, was developed by the United States and Israel and was tested at Israel’s Dimona nuclear facility; it even turns out that that the operators behind the espionage virus Duqu “were not active between sundown on Fridays and sundown on Saturdays”—Israeli time. (The Flame code, meanwhile, contains references to the Jason Bourne books and movies franchise.)

David Sanger also makes the nuclear analogy, noting that the implications of cyberweapons’ increased prevalence has not gone unnoticed in the White House. “President Obama raised many of the issues in the closed sanctum of the Situation Room, participants in the conversation say, pressing aides to make sure that the attacks were narrowly focused so that they did not take out Iranian hospitals or power plants and were directed only at the country’s nuclear infrastructure,” he reports.

Or, as Michael Tanji reported in Tablet Magazine a year-and-a-half ago of Stuxnet: “It is an indicator that, at a minimum, confirms what observers of the information warfare field have suspected for some time: When the enemy comes, he’ll turn out the lights first. The worst-case scenario is that the ability to negatively impact critical infrastructure is becoming democratized, and claims about being able to do things like shut down the Internet won’t be far-fetched but instead commonplace.”

But this is all intellectual speculation: what about Iran? What about Israel’s plans? Former IDF chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi summarized official thinking thusly: malware like Stuxnet and Flame, he said, “buys time, no more than that.”

Israel’s Cyber Ambiguity [JPost]
Researchers Find Clues in Malware [NYT]
Israel Admits to Using Cyberspace to Attack Enemies [JPost/Vos Iz Neias?]
Mutually Assured Cyberdestruction? [NYT]
Related: Modern Warfare, Too [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: ‘Flame’ Is Broiling Iran’s Computers

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ginzy1 says:

“were not active between sundown on Fridays and sundown on Saturdays”

Whoever said that is truly clueless and absolutely ignorant about the IDF & the orthodox soldiers (and there are many) that serve there.

As anyone who knows the slightest about Jewish Law should know, danger to life sets aside Shabat.  Or to put it differently, Jewish law is quite stringent about preserving life and when needed, Shabat is pushed aside (דחויה for those in the know).

When the life threatening situation involves the public at large (פיקוח נפש דציבור), Shabat basically disappears.  In other words, the obligation to preserve life is even more stringent when the public at large is concerned.

From the earliest days of the IDF, Rabbi General Shlomo Goren ruled that many, if not most IDF military activities (training generally excepted) fall in to the category of preserving life for the public at large.  This includes intelligence gathering and at least the initial triage and processing.  Without going into details  know this from my kids, 3 of whom served in the IDF 2 in combat roles and one in a mission- critical desk job.

 There is a lot more that can and should be discussed on the topic.   I would only point out that one of the most active areas of halachic scholarship in the National-Religious yeshivot is that of הלכות צבא — the halachot of operating and functioning in a military setting.  There are at least a dozen or more serious books on the topic plus scads of individual responsa.  Some of the issues are quite mundane.  Others are quite unusual (very specific to army situations) and still others can be exceedingly difficult.

It would behoove Tablet to actually publish a serious article on the topic, if they could recruit a serious & knowledgeable scholar (not LL) to write it.  The readers might learn something of Jewish substance.

Hershel Ginsburg
J’lem / Efrata

ginzy1 says:

And speaking of Iran, the present IDF Chief of Staff Gen’l Benny Gantz testified before Knesset Military & Foreign Affairs Committee today and touched on Iran.  One point that should be inculcated by MT & the Tabletarians.  Gantz put down statements by all the “ex’s” as to what Israel is and is not capable of and what Israel does and does not know.  These individuals may have had relevant information once upon a time, but their knowledge ages quickly and goes stale.

 So when Tablet digs up an ex-Military Intelligence Chief who served in the 1980s and approvingly points out that he doesn’t think Israel could inflict sufficient damage on Iran, in Gantz’s eyes, Tablet is making a fool of itself.


J’elm / Efrata

emunadate says:

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With ‘Flame,’ Israel Is Playing With Fire

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