Global entities come shopping for Israeli cybersecurity

At Tel Aviv confab, prime minister announces new National Center for Cyber Education to keep Israel’s young generations at the top of the cyber game.

As computer devices and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity continue to break new boundaries and create changes to our lifestyle, new cybersecurity technologies to defend our tech-savvy lives are crucial.

“Not many years ago, computers were far away. Then they came to our desktops, then to our laptops, and then to our pockets; now they’re in our clothes and, for some, in our body — medical devices. All this needs to be defended,” Erez Kreiner, CEO of Cyber-Rider and former director of Israel’s National Cyber Security Authority, told a press gathering at this week’s Cybertech 2017 conference in Tel Aviv.

He noted that Israel is the place to find many of the best cybersecurity products.

Last year saw 65 startups created in Israel’s cyber space, according to Start-Up Nation Central, a nonprofit organization. Altogether, the country boasts about 450 companies specializing in cyber, according to a Reuters report.

Israel’s venture-capital funding in the cyber sector, according to Start-Up Nation Central, is a record $581 million, second only to the United States.

YL Ventures’ report showing the hottest types of cybersecurity solutions to attract investment in 2016 included mobile security, vulnerability and risk management, network security, SCADA security and incident response.

“We’re still at the beginning for the cyber arena. We still need the security solution for smart homes, we still don’t have security solutions for autonomous cars, or for connected medical devices or MRI machines, or for connected kitchen appliances. Every technology that will be introduced to our lives in the coming years will need a cyber solution,” says Kreiner.

Indeed, our digital society makes us vulnerable to external threats of cyber terror, cybercrime and identity theft.

Control systems, online banking, networks, databases and electronic devices are all susceptible to attack.

“In the cyber arena, I’d say we’re in the September 10th zone,” says Kreiner. “We know very bad things can happen. So we invest in cybersecurity but still we’re very much on the edge.”

In search of Israeli innovation

Cybertech 2017, held for its fourth year at the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center, attracted over 10,000 visitors, investors, entrepreneurs and cyber companies. Cybertech is the second largest conference and exhibition of cyber technologies in the world.

Visitors come seeking the latest in cybersecurity. After all, Israelis came up with the concept of firewall security before hackers even started attacking personal computers.

Gil Shwed, founder and CEO of Check Point Software Technologies, a pioneer of firewall security, speaking at Cybertech 2017. Photo by Gilad Kavalerchik

“There are a lot of global innovators in cybersecurity. But if I were to put a bet on it, I would bet on Israel,” Esti Peshin, director of Cyber Programs at Israel Aerospace Industries, tells ISRAEL21c about where the best new technologies will come from.

Calls for collaboration echoed around the Trade Fairs hall.

Former Mossad senior officer Haim Tomer says “every country has felt the effects of cyber attacks.”

“What you see today is going to get a lot worse in the future if we don’t band together,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told conference attendees.

“Terrorist organizations use the same tools we use – against us,” said Netanyahu. “The Internet of Things can be used by these terrorist organizations for dangerous purposes. Unless we work together and cooperate, the future can be very menacing. In this context, Israel, the US and other countries should cooperate at the government level as well as among the industries.”

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) of Singapore and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) announced a new collaboration to develop technologies for tackling advanced persistent threats (APTs).

“BGU and NTU recognize the grave necessity of stopping APTs, which are some of the hardest cyber attacks to detect, and have allocated significant funding over two years to develop early detection methods,” said BGU Prof. Dan Blumberg. “Cyber security is a global threat which has become a research topic of increasing interest at BGU and we are pleased to be collaborating with our partners in Singapore to stem the tide.”

Yuval Elovici of Ben-Gurion University’s Cyber Security Research Center speaking with the press at Cybertech 2017. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Yuval Elovici, head of BGU Cyber Security Research Center, told journalists that the research and patented technology developed at the university are used to create new prevention and detection tools.

Elovici gave an example of how smartwatches can be hacked, and when worn into a secure environment, end up compromising the organization.

“The vulnerabilities are great,” says Elovici, noting his research team is now creating a solution to alert organizations to new devices that enter their secure space. “We’re developing mechanisms so that we can continue to live with IoT and still keep safe.”

At the BGU exhibit area, two prominent examples of research-to-startup success include Morphisec, which is now opening a US office, and Double Octopus, which recently announced a $6 million investment round. Both companies developed cyber security prevention and detection tools based on patented technology originating out of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Israel’s vision some 20 years ago to put cyber on top of the agenda was crucial to the country’s place as a world cybersecurity expert today. To further that vision and to keep Israel’s new generation at the top of the cyber game, Netanyahu announced the creation of a National Center for Cyber Education.

The new center will have a $6 million budget over the next five years, to “increase the number and raise the level of young Israelis for their future integration into the Israeli security services, industry and the academic world.”

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