Brazilian Armed Forces Sign Deal With Israeli Cybersecurity Firm To Help “Supervise Election”

By Paulo Motoryn. Originally published by Brasil de Fato.

General Héber Garcia Portella, Commander of Cyber ​​Defense of the Brazilian Army (ComDCiber), was responsible for signing a cooperation agreement with the Israeli cybersecurity company CySource, in March of this year. Portella was nominated by the Armed Forces, in September of last year, to participate in a commission created by the TSE (Electoral Court) to supervise the electoral process. In the post, he has insisted on pointing out supposed risks and weaknesses of the Brazilian voting system. The Israeli firm hired by  Portella’s sector in the Army has as one of its executives the systems analyst Hélio Cabral Sant’ana, former director of Information Technology at the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic in the government of Jair Bolsonaro.

In the same month that he left the federal government, in March of this year, Sant’ana acted as one of CySource’s representatives in the celebration of the company’s cooperation agreement with the Brazilian Army for the training of military personnel in cyber defense.

The agreement was signed in person on March 25 in Tel Aviv. The meeting brought together Colonel Jaques Flório Simplício, the Brazilian Defense Attaché in Israel, the Brazilian Ambassador to Israel, Gerson Menandro Garcia de Freitas, and Shai Alfasi, an executive at CySource.

So far, the details of the cooperation agreement are not public. The Transparency Portal does not contain any documents relating to the negotiation. The company also does not appear as a supplier or service provider to the government.

“We are going to train the Brazilian Army with a complete range of training, adapting all content to meet the needs that have been identified”, said Sant’ana, in a statement released by both parties after the meeting.

According to the company’s statement, among the concepts covered in the training are: malware analysis, network fundamentals, cyber incident response, red team, digital forensics and intrusion testing of critical systems.

Brazilian Military and Bolsonaristas at Israeli Company

In addition to heading information technology policies in the Presidency of the Republic during the Bolsonaro government, Hélio Cabral Sant’ana was first lieutenant in the Army, from January 2009 to March 2013. To leave the Executive and assume the position at CySource , he had authorization from the Presidency’s Public Ethics Commission.

The former IT director of the Presidency is not the only representative of the company with a stint in the Armed Forces. Like him, CySource’s global sales director, Luiz Katzap, was a lieutenant in the Army from February 2008 to August 2016.

CySource was founded by veterans of Israel’s military defense forces. After years of working in cybersecurity for military organizations, the company claims to have “the best AI-based cybersecurity education and training platform in the world”.

CySource CEO Amir Bar-El, like the other founders of the company, has experience in the Israeli defense sector. He served in the intelligence units of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service. Then he made a career in the private sector.

“Over the past few years, we have established cybersecurity academies for various military organizations and security units around the world, which has allowed us to consolidate strategic knowledge in cyber defense,” said Bar-EI in the statement on the partnership with the Brazilian Army.

Héber Garcia Portella’s visit to the United States

Inducted into the position of the Cyber ​​Defense Command in May 2021 by the then Minister of Defense, Fernando Azevedo, Héber Garcia Portella was once an instructor at the Agulhas Negras Military Academy and the Chilean Army War Academy.

Portella also held the position of Commander of the 28th Light Infantry Battalion in Campinas, São Paulo. As a general, he was head of the Northeast Military Command (CMNE), based in Recife (PE).

In 2020, as Army Chief of Human Resources, he paid a visit to the United States, where he met with Commanding General Joseph Calloway, who held a similar position in the United States Army.

“Following a traditional gift exchange between Calloway and Lieutenant General Heber Garcia Portella, director of the Brazilian Army’s Directorate of Human Resources Management, the two leaders discussed programs, policies, management and development of US Army soldiers, with a focus on in the Army Talent Alignment Process,” reads a statement released by the U.S. Army Southern Command.