The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) – Lev Academic Center recently initiated its Cyber Elite 2.0 intensive cybersecurity program, providing Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) graduates of software engineering and computer science degrees with potential employment in Israel’s hi-tech and defense industries.
The pilot for Cyber Elite was created in the 2017-18 academic year in partnership with the Cyber Education Center, the National Cyber Directorate of the Prime Minister’s Office, and leading cyber companies to ensure that the training program responded to specific industry needs. The program trained and placed its 31 participants — 15 women and 16 men – in cyber security research and development positions in defense and commercial cyber companies.
Cyber Elite students participated in Israel’s Cyber Week competition during the pilot year. The initial batch of 400 competitors was whittled down to 90 taking part in the final round, 18 of whom represented the Cyber Elite program, including the only two women to make it that far in the competition. The entire initial intake of the pilot program, remain in high-level hi-tech research and development roles today.
The Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) recognized the success of the pilot program, awarding JCT with a grant for two new Cyber Elite cohorts for the academic years of 2021-22 and 2022-23.
Now, the program has a more advanced curriculum that includes topics like malware analysis, penetration testing, network security, vulnerabilities and exploitations and more, with training provided by industry experts and former military intelligence personnel. For a part of their weekly studies, participants will work in research and development positions at 18 leading cyber security companies and cyber units of multinational companies, including Check Point, Cymotive, Intel, CYE, ARMO, Israel Aerospace Industries/Elta Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Cellebrite and others.
Cyber Elite 2.0 consists of 36 participants – 19 men and 17 women – who all come from Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox backgrounds. They gained admission into the 10-month program ahead of hundreds of other applicants, following a rigorous screening process that included interviews with former military intelligence and team leaders in the cyber industry. The participants are now engaging with a curriculum developed in consultation with the defense and commercial cyber industries, which in turn will help its graduates become a new source of personnel at the highest level of the cyber security research and development sector.
“At its core, Israeli ingenuity is about best utilizing and amplifying the ideas and skills of the people of Israel,” said Orlee Guttman, Director of the Cyber Elite program. “We are thrilled that Cyber Elite will be able to provide the country with new, incredible talent that previously would never have had an entry into the cyber world. These men and women will bring major added value to the country’s commercial and defense cyber industries.”
It is unusual for those working in senior positions in Israel’s cyber industry to not have first served in cyber units in the military. That makes the field virtually impenetrable for Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox men and women who are computer science and software engineers – a population not regularly represented in those same units. Cyber Elite is set to fill a potential void of missing out on outstanding engineers from an often overlooked communities and who could greatly enhance Israel’s commercial and defense cyber sectors.