Held at a massive conference hall, Cybertech 2016 in Tel Aviv showcased Israel's cybertech know-how and a flurry of startups trying to make it big in the country's saturated tech startup ecosystem.
In 2015 Israel generated cyber-security sales worth $4 billion resulting in a whopping 20 per cent of all private sector investment in the booming industry.
The event attracted thousands of visitors from abroad indicating Israel's centrality in the global cybertech space. The crowd included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who spoke at length about the need for governments to cooperate in the international arena against a plethora of threats. Netanyahu's presence further illustrated the cyber industry's growing importance, in Israel and abroad.
One of the more prominent industries represented was automotive cyber security. After all, with new technology comes new threats, also when it comes to cars that are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks.
I spoke with Yoni Heilbronn, VP Marketing of Argus Cyber Security, a global automotive company that helps car manufacturers, suppliers, and aftermarket connectivity providers to protect connected cars and commercial vehicles from car-hacking. According to Heilbronn, Israeli cybersecurity has its roots -- rather unsurprisingly -- in the military.
"This is mostly due to the massive investment in this area in the Israeli military, and specifically in its intelligence branch. Many alumni of these units learn both cyber and ingenuity, things which they use in their civilian life. In addition, the government has adopted a very open and supportive approach to assisting new ventures in this field in Israel."
A prominent member in Israel's cybertech community, Ron Rymon, serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of WhiteSource, M&A due diligence platform, believes future security trends will focus on the following.
- Baking security into devops. "This is WhiteSource for open source usage which was a dull area when we started in 2011 and becomes red hot now."
- Baking security into IoT. "There's already in some hype for consumers and industrial apps (such as automotive), but I believe it's moving towards enterprise play."
- Securing personal information (PII).
"This is motivated by the devastating effects of the various breaches, and also other issues like privacy, regulations (right to be forgotten), etc. I am looking at various companies in that area but have not done anything yet," Rymon stated.
One of the most talked about Israeli companies currently is endpoint prevention platform Minerva Labs. Selected Most Innovative Cyber Startup at the conference, Minerva Labs also took home another prize at Berlin's Cyber Boot Camp 2016 competition in early February.
According to CEO Eddy Bobritsky, Minerva Labs gives enterprises the ability to handle targeted attacks, neutralizing before any damage has been done.
"Minerva's solution is different from other security solutions. We are pleased to encourage other security products, as they bring great security solutions and by doing this, the attackers will try to evade such solutions. This is exactly the point where Minerva gets into the picture, We simulate existence of security products such as Sandbox and forensics tools such as Debugger on each and every endpoint in the organization and through this process, create an environment that prevents malware execution without the need to detect the threat first, or any other prior knowledge and way before any damage has been done," Bobritsky said.
In addition to the country's military that keeps pumping out impressive talent, Israel's geographical location is perhaps what matters the most when it comes to its cybertech prowess.
"Due to Israel's challenging environment in the Middle East, and the growing investments in the cyber security arena, Israel has a high awareness to cyber security matters. Starting with Israel's mandatory Army service where people graduate from certain military units -- notably those that deal with cyber warfare -- to the civilian private sector, Israel invests major resources and highly contributes to the development and use of cyber security tools, putting it in the forefront of cyber security," said Yoran Sirkis, the CEO of Covertix, an Israeli company that offers complete control and protection of confidential files when shared with internal/external parties.
Indeed, it's no secret that most founders draw their knowledge and experience from the military service. Such unique experience in an early age gives Israelis an advantage over other formal education.
As cyber warfare continues its march, Israel's leadership and its burgeoning tech community are well-prepared to tackle present and future threats and help governments around the world to fight against increasingly sophisticated enemies.
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