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Unit 8200 Commander Attacks Cybersecurity Startup That Tried to Poach Soldiers

An Israeli cybersecurity startup paid to put up recruitment ads on billboards strategically located just outside Unit 8200’s headquarters in central Israel, infuriating the unit’s commander

Hagar Ravet 13:1530.12.19

The commander of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Unit 8200, known as the country's NSA equivalent, is on the warpath after a cybersecurity startup he claimed is attempting to poach the unit's in-demand talent. In an email he sent to soldiers under his commands, which was viewed by Calcalist, the commander spoke against the company, Sentinel Labs Inc., also known as SentinelOne, which paid to put up recruitment ads on billboards strategically located just outside Unit 8200’s headquarters in central Israel.

 

Putting up the recruitment sign was "a cynical and unrestrained act" designed to encourage soldiers to "forsake their national security mission," the commander wrote in the email.

Unit 8200 (illustration). Photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit Unit 8200 (illustration). Photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit

 

Replying to Calcalist's request for comment, the IDF spokesperson's unit said that they will not address the unit's internal communication.

 

The attack is surprising considering the widespread narrative—bolstered by Unit 8200 itself and by organizations such as the 8200 Alumni Association—that one of the critical advantages of serving in the elite unit is the direct path it offers to lucrative positions within the local tech industry. The unit's alumni association even holds an annual recruitment event participated by some of the country's most coveted employers. This year's event, held in May, saw companies such as team management and productivity startup Monday.com Labs Ltd., Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., Wix.com, and Cybereason Inc. vying for recent unit grads.

 

Unit 8200 is well-known for launching the tech careers of many of its alumni, with companies founded by former soldiers including NYSE-listed, U.S.-based Palo Alto Networks Inc., Nasdaq-listed Check Point, and NICE Systems Ltd. Unit veterans make 20% more than the industry average in the Israeli market, according to 2018 data by GotFriends Ltd., a company specializing in tech talent recruitment. The overwhelming majority of the unit's soldiers receive job offers immediately following their release from active service, and sometimes even while still on duty, according to GotFriends.

 

The unit commander's harsh response reveals the challenge of preserving talent as competition from the private sector grows. Speaking last year at a Calcalist conference, former Unit 8200 commander, Brigadier General (ret.) Ehud Schneorson, said that he had a tough battle holding on to talent when offers worth as much as $1 million per year were extended to subordinates. As the allure of private companies increases, Unit 8200, much like its U.S. counterpart, has found it increasingly difficult to hold on to its best talent, Schneorson said.