"The Intelligence Revolution is an Opportunity for the Industry"

From cyber defense products to cutting-edge intelligence gathering and data fusion: Adi Dar, head of the new Electro-Optics, Cyber & Intelligence Division established at Elbit Systems, reveals another angle of the new era

Adi Dar, CEO of Elop (Photo: Gilad Kavalerchik)

"Intelligence has really changed and the industries that fail to adapt themselves will become irrelevant," says Adi Dar, CEO of Elop, a member of the Elbit Systems group and head of the group's new Electro-Optics, Cyber & Intelligence Division.

In fact, even Dar's title is new: the Electro-Optics, Cyber & Intelligence Division was established at Elbit only recently, in early 2014. Until the beginning of that year, Dar had focused on his duties as CEO of Elop, which deals primarily with electro-optical technologies (last March the company successfully completed a conclusive trial of the Music system – a system designed to protect passenger aircraft against man-portable surface-to-air missiles).

But, Dar is no stranger to the world of intelligence, too: he rose through the ranks as an officer in the IDF Corps of Intelligence until he left the military at a relatively young age in favor of a civilian career. Dar was appointed as the head of Elbit Systems' new division at the age of 44. The new division has assumed responsibility for intelligence and cyber technologies developed by the Land Systems Division of the Elbit Systems group. This particular field has gained momentum in the last few years, after Brig. Gen. (res.) Yair Cohen, formerly the commander of Unit 8200, the primary intelligence gathering unit of the IDF Corps of Intelligence, had been appointed to head it.

Why, in fact, have you established an Electro-Optics, Cyber & Intelligence Division?

"Over the last year we conducted an in-depth examination of the question of where the intelligence world is going," says Adi Dar. "There is no doubt that the intelligence issue is gaining momentum on strategic as well as tactical levels. Operational intelligence, national intelligence as well as intelligence used to safeguard regimes and intelligence for coping with organized crime and the like – everything is changing very rapidly.

"At this time it is already clear to us that if you look 10 years ahead – you will find the intelligence element on each one of those levels. Intelligence on the battlefield and in worlds that are half civilian, half government is becoming critical. Accordingly, and in view of the fact that Elbit has always been a significant factor in intelligence (except that the technologies were dispersed among numerous divisions and intended mainly for the tactical world), we decided we wanted to substantially empower our intelligence-related capabilities. We decided to concentrate our efforts through a single division – transfer the element in charge of cyber and intelligence (at the Land Systems Division) to the element in charge of visual intelligence (Elop). The objective was to fuse the two elements and create a new intelligence element capable of coping with intelligence and with the future strategic goals.

"We are already positioned in a place that is not half bad, and expect to make an additional and very substantial quantum leap. We will see that in the near future."

According to Adi Dar, the new division intends to develop intelligence and cyber systems for governments and giant organizations in the defense sector and in the paramilitary worlds. "We have no intention of operating in the financial sector or in any other civilian sector," he stresses. Their activities involving intelligence for the battlefield and for border security, for example, will continue to exist in the other divisions of the Elbit Systems group. The new division will focus on WIT (Wise Intelligence Technology) solutions and cyber applications that evolve into products that may be purchased "off the shelf".

"This is about a lot of software and analysis systems that integrate the entire intelligence input and process it," says Adi Dar. "High quality intelligence is ultimately an integral that crosses numerous disciplines. You cannot produce high quality intelligence just by observing the territory (VisInt) or just through signals intelligence (SigInt) or just by operating human agents (HumInt). The second layer, involving the extraction of maximum information by putting together millions of bits of information – that is the whole point about intelligence today."

Who, for example, can be the clients of your WIT solutions?

"The solutions are relevant to organizations that produce strategic intelligence, like the CIA or FBI or similar agencies, organizations that integrate a massive amount of bits of information, most of which are not in the geographic world."

Where is the technological breakthrough which constitutes an opportunity for Elbit Systems: more in the ability to store the massive information or more in data fusion?

"It is found in both, but the special opportunity for Elbit is in the ability to integrate different types of information, to take an extensive variety of sensors, get all those bits of information to one place and know how to handle them. In some cases it is about many millions of bits of information that you need to administer and process so as to produce the intelligence out of them. Those bits of information are not intelligence until you put them together."

How do you translate intelligence that is currently based, to a considerable extent, on digital information into strategic intelligence, which traditionally takes the form of verbal evaluations?

"Strategic intelligence is not just an evaluation. Operational intelligence is strategic – it means knowing how to find a needle in a haystack, especially today. As far as I am concerned, strategic intelligence is intelligence that does not focus on the battalion commander, but rather on significant events at the national level. We provide solutions to all of the levels. The principles of collecting and fusing data for the tactical echelon are very similar to the way in which we operate at the strategic level as well.

"At the conceptual level, the communication barriers have been breached. The complexity today is not in communication and encryption as before, but rather in putting together the bits of information. This is the challenge on the battlefield as well as at the higher levels – extracting knowledge, and not just information, out of the raw intelligence."


Let's talk about cyber. It is interesting to note that Elbit was the first company in Israel that established a cyber organ which now belongs to the division you head. How did the fact that you were first benefit you?

"Actually, Elbit was ahead of everyone else by 6-7 years minimum. It was the first to identify this trend very accurately, and that happened in our Land Systems Division. They were the first who put their finger on this issue, before everyone else joined this trend, and that gave us an advantage. When cyber was in its infancy Elbit chose to invest in it. Today everyone establishes all sorts of administrations. It does not really bother us. We have an undisputed advantage as we have been there for a long time."

So what is cyber, precisely? We are still talking about a rather amorphous definition of a rather unclear field of activity…

"Cyber includes so much. We, at Elbit, divide it into two primary fields of activity: defensive cyber and intelligence gathering cyber. These are the two primary paths we have inscribed on our flag."

Are you also involved in offensive cyber tools?

"No!" says Dar emphatically. "The defensive market and the intelligence gathering market are radically different, but Elbit has been involved in both of them for a number of years now. We have gained quite a lot of experience. Both of them are rapidly growing markets possessing a very substantial potential.

"Let's begin with intelligence gathering cyber – it deals with the intelligence gathering aspect. The more we look ahead, the more substantial the element of collecting intelligence out of cyber becomes. Eventually, we provide a layer of analysis and production, but intelligence gathering sensors as well. There are classic intelligence gathering sensors such as SigInt – and there is cyber. Everyone understands that collecting intelligence out of cyber becomes more significant. The intelligence element attempts to find its way in the confusion that is cyberspace. Within the cyber intelligence gathering element there are quite a few components and sub-components.

"There is the more trivial intelligence gathering – OSInt (open source intelligence), and WebInt (web intelligence), which eventually means that we face a huge space with endless information – websites, social networks – anything that is available and accessible. Within that space we need to extract relevant information from the endless information out there, and deliver it within reasonable time, almost close to real time, to the decision makers. It is a very complex world. I believe we are among the world leaders in this field. It is a world almost everyone is coming into. It is highly relevant to all intelligence agency types. They all operate in this world – everyone who seeks valuable information understands that there are parameters you can only understand through overt intelligence.

"This is one type of intelligence that is progressively gaining momentum, and it is already very dominant, owing to its value, among other things. The other intelligence gathering sensors are located next to it. For example, we collect intelligence from computers and from various mobile systems very effectively. Things that once looked fantastic or unattainable currently constitute a very substantial element in the portfolio we offer our clients.

"The world of collecting intelligence from computers has become dominant. If we look a decade ahead, it will be a highly significant layer in the SigInt world. It solves many of the dilemmas which in the past were very important. We developed the PSS system that collects intelligence from computers. There is also the MSS system, which is capable of coping with portable computers.

Is this a classic software product?

"In principle, yes, but what people tend to forget is the fact that the wisdom does not reside only in the process of getting the information, but in how it is utilized. If you obtained the information but failed to address the aspect of how to utilize that information – you would have drowned. You must be able to produce the information, and that is our very significant advantage – on the one hand, providing intelligence gathering resources capable of finding the information, and on the other hand – the tools that reside at both levels – before the information is entered into the analysis systems and the debriefing process."

Does DECA (IMOD's Defense Export Controls Agency) allow you to sell these products abroad?

"These are unclassified products that we are allowed to sell. They are supervised"

What about the defensive side?

"This world, too, consists of countless layers. There is the product layer – firewalls, antivirus software and network administrators. We are not there – we aim for the highest layer of those sizeable organizations, not just governments, who are willing to invest in order to significantly improve the effectiveness of their defenses."

How do you do that?

"Take, for example, the product we call CyberShield. What we try to explain or demonstrate is that eventually, each component is a stand-alone element – each component has to cope with a pin-point issue. We, as a sizeable organization, lose our system orientation and where the loopholes are and where they tried to attacks us – where there are indications of cyber incidents. The only way to cope with a system-wide picture in a sizeable organization is to assemble a command and control layer or a cyber shield that would, in fact, integrate the entire information. The information consists of highly technical bits of data – firewalls, antivirus software, etc. Each computer linked to the network reports throughout the day (remember, this is a sizeable organization) about millions of bits of technical information. Each one of those bits, separately, is very innocent – but put together, they can accumulate into substantial knowledge.

"If someone wants to attack you – he will attack. This is where the intelligence element comes in. We have a system for managing cyber events as well as simulators for practicing these situations."

So this entire activity is not just a – a bubble that is about to burst? Has the massive investment in this field already justified itself?

"Yes, and this field is only in its infancy. You do not have to be a great prophet – just look around you and understand the change."