Unit 8200

Computer hackers, the bane of corporations and bloggers alike, are the heroes of Martin Himel’s documentary, Unit 8200, which will be broadcast by Vision TV in Canada on Monday, May 8 at 9 p.m.

Martin Himel

Two decades ago, hackers were regarded as common criminals, says Yossi Melman, an Israeli journalist who specializes in intelligence and strategic affairs. But in today’s fast-moving digital environment, he claims, they’re seen as geniuses who can help fend off the scourge of malware attacks.

Some of the world’s best and brightest hackers are Israelis who served in Unit 8200, the legendary backbone of Israeli military intelligence. The skills they refined there are now being put to use in Israel’s highly respected high-tech sector, centred in and around Tel Aviv.

Himel focuses his attention on Argus Cyber Security Ltd., a company founded by three graduates of Unit 8200. Argus, a world leader in automotive anti-hacking software, attracts global attention. It recently teamed up with Magna International, a Canadian manufacturer of automobile parts. Since autonomous connected cars may be the next big thing in the car industry, Argus’ expertise in computer security is in high demand. As Argus employee Ami Shalev says, “Cars can be a hacker’s dream.”

The Argus Cyber Security team

In his informative documentary, Himel also zeroes in on Inbal Arieli, whose specialty is the identification of cyber threats to financial institutions, and Ran Goldshtein, who raised $75 million to start a company.

Both worked in Unit 8200, which, in collaboration with a major U.S. intelligence agency, developed the ultra-sophisticated Stuxnet virus, which temporarily disabled one-third of the centrifuges in an Iranian nuclear facility. This malware slowed down Iran’s march toward a nuclear capability.

The hackers in Unit 8200 also managed to infiltrate the hotel rooms of the Iranian delegates negotiating a nuclear agreement with the six major powers, thereby providing Israel with vital intelligence information.

Apart from these technological feats, Unit 8200 hackers devised software that enabled the Israeli Air Force to blind Syrian radar when it bombed Syria’s nuclear reactor in September 2007.

Nearly all of Unit 8200’s personnel range in age from 19 to 22. Young but savvy, they’re the future of Israel’s high-tech start-up industry.