Innovation is vital to business success and national security. In Israel is one of the most highly successful innovation machines, the high tech unit in Israeli intelligence known as 8200.
In 1958 the IDF decided to acquire its first computer, a Philco 2000 Model 211. It was the size of a room.
“There was a debate over whether they should get a computer or build a new runway,” recalls Lt.-Col. Yaniv Ossi, the commander of the IDF’s elite cyber computing school. At the time, computing was a new technology. Philco, a San Francisco-based company, claimed its system could sort and process a ream of paper filled with data in 18 minutes. Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, then-deputy chief of the General Staff and director-general of the Defense Ministry respectively, both supported the acquisition and saw that the future was in computing.
The most highly successful high tech unit in Israeli intelligence is 8200.
To get to the point where the IDF can pioneer new technologies and manage a battlefield that is increasingly technological requires a large number of soldiers proficient in computer science. The academy for computer science offers several courses. It doesn’t provide the exact numbers of soldiers it selects every year.
The priority is to find soldiers who can be programmers and write and develop code. Those who studied computer science in high school or have high cognitive skills are selected for a six-month course.
“They know how to deal with complex situations and information – those who know how to analyze by themselves and in teamwork and don’t need me to supervise all the time; those who are good at working under pressure,” says Ossi.
Only some 15% to 20% pass the rigorous selection tests. Ossi says thousands of applicants want to get into the unit.
“We teach them just what is practical,” asserts Ossi. The concept is to provide recruits with the precise tools for their marketplace – in this case not Silicon Valley, but the air force, army, navy, or other units that gather intelligence, such as Battalion 8200, the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Unit.
The unit is into open source IoT (Internet of Things) platforms and not re-inventing the wheel, but borrowing and using what works.
“I take what already exists outside the army and make it our own,” says Ossi. He understands these needs, because he studied engineering at Tel Aviv University and IT in the army. He was a technology officer and in Mamram working hands-on and learning about human resources.
Start-up machine that would help transform Israel’s economy
Forbes called 8200 “Israel’s secret start-up machine,” whose veterans have gone on to found successful businesses, such as venture-capital firms. Ossi says that “it all begins here.” According to him, programmers and technicians are trained at the academy before being posted to the other storied units.
Their education also seeks to impart values, such as the purity of arms and professional ethics. “So we don’t take things we aren’t supposed to, or use it for things we aren’t supposed to,” Ossi says. The IDF won’t comment on any kind of offensive applications of its cyber technology…
School – Unit 8200 – Business
Ossi is also cognizant of the role that the school has in Israeli society. “I am in touch with the Education Ministry about influencing the training in high schools,” he explains.
“I want to influence the academic world. I know what I need and what they need, so I am also in touch with the industrial sector and the engineers. We need that in the country – those who exit at the top influence the economy of Israel and we are part of that. We are not alone.” Full article at JPost
Spies, Inc.: Business Innovation from Israel’s Masters of Espionage by Stacy Perman availible at Amazon.
Israeli Unit 8200 driving a global tech boom
A former 8200 alum who called himself only “Brigadier General B,” told James Bamford of Wired, “This correlation between serving in the intelligence Unit 8200 and starting successful high-tech companies is not coincidental: Many of the technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by Unit veterans.”
Companies using military-like tracking software is also not a new story….
Nokia’s “Dedicated Challenge” last year led to something called the “Interdependence and Predictability of Human Mobility and Social Interactions” algorithm. The algorithm used metadata from you and your contacts to predict, among other things, where you’ll be in 24 hours within a 20 meter radius.
Surely that type of algorithm could be used to market products to a customer, but researcher and writer of the winning software, Mirco Musolesi, had another idea: Pre-crime.
“Musolesi is hoping to work with law enforcement agencies to test how well the algorithm predicts future locations of crime,” wrote Parmy Olson of Forbes last year, “and he suggests using anonymous data from people on bail in the United Kingdom, who have been electronically tagged.”
It’s not unlike the system Israel’s Unit 8200 uses to track potential terrorist activities.
From The Guardian: “A lot of the practices and the technology that we used in the army are used today at Stylit to address the problems we are aiming to solve in fashion,” said Yaniv Nissim, a former 8200 programmer who designed the company’s algorithm by combining the wisdom of former army tech geeks with fashion industry stylists. “The technology is mainly machine-learning technology. It’s how to take huge amounts of information and from that to understand users’ behavior.”
In short, there’s very little difference between tracking consumers and tracking terrorists. BusinessInsider