Unit 8200, founded 1952

THE HISTORY AND IMPACT OF UNIT 8200 ON ISRAELI HI-TECH | The attitude of these early Zionists still exists in modern Israeli society, and the nation’s … beginnings have had a lasting impact on the nation’s culture. Unit 8200, and its precursors, embodied this … spirit … [which] continues to drive innovation and has turned Israel into one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. …

Unit 8200 began as a collection of pre-independence intelligence and signals gathering groups that honed their technological skills on British and Arab adversaries. After independence in 1948, the Israeli military, now called the IDF, set up an electronic warfare unit in a green villa that was formerly inhabited by an Arab sheik in the old port town of Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv. The group was given the codename “Rabbit” and put in charge of breaking codes and intercepting Arab communications. During this time, very few countries possessed any ability to intercept and break codes. The U.S., U.K., and the Soviet Union were among the few countries with this ability. This technological ability was not purchased from any other country, but rather developed by early Israeli computer engineers, some of whom had recently emigrated from the Soviet Union. The Unit had some unique restraints that did not exist in the other technologically advanced countries, which included a lack technical experience, technological institutions, funds, and manpower. To compensate for these deficiencies, members of the Unit resorted to crude, albeit effective, techniques to monitor Arab communications. These techniques included stringing up an antenna made of metal wire between two poles, connected to an old Hallicrafter’s S-38, a popular civilian radio in the 1930s and 40s. In 1949, the Unit developed a more sophisticated monitoring systems based on stolen BBC plans. …

By 1959, the Unit gained access to more advanced computing technology. While much of the early Israeli computing research was conducted at the Weitzman Institute of Science, the military saw its potential and took over much of the early research. RAFAEL (the Hebrew abbreviation for Armament Development Authority) was the IDF unit that conducted much of the Israeli high-tech R&D in early computing. In 1956, RAFAEL developed one of the first analog computers in Israel. By 1958, this unit had created a computer called Itzik, which allowed for large-scale simulations. By 1959, all the branches of the IDF, including Unit 8200, wanted access to this new technology. In 1960, the IDF purchased a Philco computer in the United States and created “The Center for Computers and Mechanized Records” known as MAMRAM. Access to computers nudged Unit 8200 closer to its more modern reputation of hackers and complex code breakers. …

After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the dramatic changes that resulted from the Agranat Commission Report, Unit 8200 began to take on its modern structure and organizational culture. In addition to the organizational changes, the Unit has also grown to be the largest, single unit in the IDF. …

[A]dmission into Unit 8200 is highly selective, and because of the exit opportunities it provides, is extremely competitive. Inbal Arieli, a Unit alumnus, serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, explains in a 2016 Forbes interview that, “The Harvard Business School has a great screening process, but it depends on who applies. Unit 8200 can take the top 1 percent of the 1 percent of the country.” …

Unit 8200 is a unique gathering of highly-intelligent, technology-orientated, motivated individuals who exist in an environment in which they are given advanced technical training, hands-on military experience, and a powerful professional network, all at the age of eighteen. Combine these elements with a society that elevates leaders who demonstrate bold, resourceful, and inventive tendencies, and it produces some incredible entrepreneurs.” – J. Peter Rousseau for The Honors Tutorial College, Ohio University 2017 https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=ouhonors1492781541344253

‘Unit 8200: The Backbone of Israeli Military Intelligence’ https://youtu.be/1zoOJxQZPGc

Inside Israel’s Secret Startup Machine | Much has been made of Israel’s status as “Startup Nation.” Not even the size of New Jersey, with a population smaller than New York City’s, Israel is home to more Nasdaq-listed companies than any country except the U.S. and China. On a per capita basis Israel boasts more venture capital, more startups and more scientists and tech professionals than any other country in the world.

To understand these dizzying numbers, you need to understand the mysterious Unit 8200. While no one has ever disclosed how large it is, FORBES estimates the unit has, at any given time, 5,000 people assigned to it, all mandated to deploy the latest technology – Forbes 2016 https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardbehar/2016/05/11/inside-israels-secret-startup-machine/#1da9c5091a51

How Israel became a leader in cybersecurity and surveillance | Veterans of the unit – and other IDF units with a cyber function – form a fraternity of sorts that have seeded the cybersecurity world. That was apparent last week in the halls of the RSA cybersecurity conference, an annual gathering named for its corporate organizer that drew more than 43,000 participants to San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

“There’s a joke around RSA that it’s the only place in the U.S. where you ask instructions in Hebrew and get the answer in Hebrew,” said Striem-Amit.

A few big-name cybersecurity firms started by 8200 alums include Check Point Software Technologies, a Tel Aviv-headquartered firm, and CyberArk, which has its headquarters in Newton, Massachusetts. And new companies emerge each year. Forty Israeli start-up cyber companies raised $360 million last year, part of the $850 million that poured into acquisitions and investment in the sector, according to the Cyber Research Databank. – Miami Herald 2017 http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article134016704.html

Former cyber-intelligence sleuths for Israel now work to uncover malicious hackers | What (Unit) 8200 has been able to do is create a pretty unique, and very effective, screening program, which for the most part lets you identify not the people with the most knowledge, but rather the people with the aptitude to learn new technologies, ideas very, very quickly,” Nadav Zafrir, co-founder and CEO of Team8, told CNBC.

Team8 is an Israeli company, founded by veterans from the intelligence agency, that is part-think tank, part-incubator and part-venture creation foundry that develops cybersecurity startups from the ground up. Prior to co-founding Team8, Zafrir was the chief of Unit 8200.

Gil Shwed, who co-founded Check Point, was a member of Unit 8200, as was Udi Mokady of CyberArk and Nir Zuk of Palo Alto Networks.

Unit 8200 starts identifying talent in Israel as early as high school. Candidates are screened based on grades and recommendations from their schools, Liran Grinberg, co-founder of Team8 and another Unit 8200 veteran, explained to CNBC. – CNBC 2017 https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/11/israel-unit-8200-team8.html

Unit 8200 graduates are trying to get everyone online and tracked starting in Africa. Meet the Israelis trying to bring the entire world online | Facebook’s recent acquisition of an Israeli startup has led its two creators to an ambitious new project in the third world. – Ynetnews 2014 https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4581424,00.html

PM tells global business leaders: ‘This year in Jerusalem’ | Netanyahu focused the bulk of his speech on Israel’s start-up and high-tech bonafides, which he credited to the country’s large investment in its military cybersecurity.

He said the country had the “second largest” equivalent of the US’s National Security Agency in the world, referring to the IDF Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200.

He then added for emphasis, “I don’t know if you heard what I just said. It’s the second largest NSA, not in relative terms. The United States is 42 times larger than the State of Israel. Its NSA is not 42 times the size of Israel’s NSA, it’s not even 10 times the size.” – Times of Israel 2018 https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-to-global-business-leaders-this-year-in-jerusalem/

It’s noteworthy that the upcoming leading alternative to Facebook that incorporates crypto-currency and attention economy profit-sharing is Israeli startup Synereo, which was co-founded by a Unit 8200 veteran.

“Synereo boasts that it is the world’s first completely decentralized and distributed social network. Users are able to interact directly with each other without the need for a 3rd party intermediary, unlike the case with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin.” – Jewish Business News 2015 http://jewishbusinessnews.com/2015/01/28/israeli-startup-synereo-offers-decentralized-social-network/

Microsoft and Qualcomm Are Backing This Israeli Security Startup Studio | Microsoft and Qualcomm have invested an undisclosed sum in Team8, a cybersecurity startup studio founded by top veterans of Unit 8200, Israel’s digital intelligence unit, often referred to as the country’s National Security Agency-equivalent. Meanwhile, Citigroup has joined its partnership program to help design new digital security startups.

The co-investment by the venture arms of two tech giants serves as a point of validation for Israel’s booming digital defense sector. Microsoft has been particularly fond of the nation’s cyber talent, snapping up multiple companies founded there in recent years.

Team8 and its spinoff companies have raised a total of $92 million to date, according to the company. The parent firm last raised $23 million from investors such as AT&T, Accenture, and Nokia about a year ago. …

In 2015, Team8 raised $18 million from backers including Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, and Innovation Endeavors, co-helmed by Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s [Google] executive chairman.

Nadav Zafrir, Team8’s CEO and cofounder and a former commander of Unit 8200, told Fortune that his firm opted for its latest investors based on their individual areas of expertise. “Microsoft has software and cloud. Qualcomm has chips and hardware. And Citi has the financial perspective,” he said on a call, declining to reveal the sum invested. – Fortune 2017 http://fortune.com/2017/01/09/microsoft-qualcomm-citi-israel-security-startup-team8/

Israel to Train High Schoolers for Big Data Intelligence Jobs | Israel is now “collaborating with the Israeli ministry of education on a new big data training program for the country’s high schoolers… The new program is intended to provide Israel’s security and intelligence arms, including Unit 8200, the Mossad and Israel’s internal security service, with pre-trained recruits.

As part of the program, big data courses will be offered to Israeli high schoolers. To increase the numbers of potential recruits, the Israeli military and Unit 8200 need to seed early training programs…” – Calcalist 2018 https://www.calcalistech.com/ctech/articles/0,7340,L-3728778,00.html