TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The chief of Israel's Military Intelligence has warned the Jewish state is under sustained cyberattack amid "the biggest revolution in warfare, more than gunpowder and the utilization of air power in the past century."
The government is scrambling to set up an emergency task force to counter the growing threat described by Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi Wednesday. The set-up will be based to some extent on the U.S. Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
Kovachi told the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv that Israeli financial organizations, businesses and industries have been battered by hundreds of cyberattacks during the last year, dozens of them targeting defense institutions.
"This is a new dimension that we're far from investigating and understanding," he declared.
"Cyber in my modest opinion will soon be revealed to be the biggest revolution in warfare, more than gunpowder and the utilization of air power in the last century."
Israel has been a major leader in cyber warfare for some time. It is widely believed to have sabotaged the core of Iran's contentious nuclear program, its uranium enrichment center, with the notorious Stuxnet virus in 2010 in collaboration with the United States.
Iran is reported to have sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into fast-tracking its own cyberwarfare capability, for offense and well as defense, and it's widely believed to have been behind attacks on Saudi Arabian and Qatari energy facilities.
The chief of staff of Israel's military forces, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, warned delegates at the Tel Aviv conference the Jewish state needs to increase its vigilance as the cyberwar threat grows.
Cybersecurity is "a playing field that we need to use to the full, and I think that the State of Israel can and should do much more than it has been doing until now," he said.
Israel "must be at the level of a superpower, and it can be at the level of a superpower," Gantz said.
It is "vital in the extreme" that the country devote all national resources to developing cybersecurity, he stressed. "We cannot wait."
Gantz warned in October that Israel's next war could start with a cyberattack on civilian infrastructure that would paralyze the country.
That followed media reports of an attempted attack on 140 senior figures in Israel's security and defense industries. It involved emails containing malware programmed to steal and copy data that were reported to have been traced back to Chinese defense companies.
A month earlier, what was characterized at the time as a computer malfunction -- later reports said it was the result of a cyberattack -- shut down the Carmel Tunnels, a key traffic artery to northern Israel, including the port city of Haifa, which is also the Israeli navy's major base.
Officials said there had been an attempted cyberattack on Haifa's water system in May.
This issue is assuming greater importance for Israel by the day as its military undergoes a revolutionary shift in doctrine and organization under the 2014-19 spending plan that is sharply downsizing combat forces, eliminating armor and air force formations, to develop a more agile capability focused on tactical interconnectivity and interoperability through digital systems.
Defense sources say the so-called Tzayad Digital Army Program -- spearheaded by state-owned Elbit Systems of Haifa, Israel's leading military systems company -- remains the centerpiece "for connecting command-level echelons with armor, infantry, artillery and other ground forces on a single, secure digital command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, or C4I in military parlance.
All front-line and most reserve units down to battalion level should be fully integrated by 2018 into the digital network managed by the Ground Forces Command, the U.S publication Defense News reports.
It said that beyond the army's Tzayad network, the General Staff's C4I branch is responsible for providing the infrastructure that connects all armed forces networks, from the high command to commanders in the field.
Over the next five years, it will link all field command posts and begin deploying capabilities to support mobile CPs and extend down to small combat units.
Brig. Gen. Eyal Zelinger, commander of the military's C4I Corps, says his outfit seeks to more than triple the bandwidth capacity from the 30 megabytes per second now available to maneuvering formations through upgrades to a truck-deployed network currently operating at brigade level.