Cyber Security is a universal problem in search of an elusive – perhaps illusionary – universal solution.
Sparking Cyber Innovation
Israel is picking up the gauntlet in the quest for cyber-security solutions. In 2014, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced plans to erect CyberSpark, an industrial park specializing in cyber-security companies at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beer Sheva. The new tech park will bring academia together with global industry leaders in the ITC security, pre-seed startups, government and security agencies. The ribbon was cut on the park’s first (of 15) building last September; Deutsche Telekom, Oracle, EMC and tech incubators set up by Elbit Systems and Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) are among its first residents. Israel’s National Cyber Bureau and the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economics have budgeted US $23 million to support Israeli cyber companies.
More importantly, the launch of the new project appears to have ignited the imagination of several major multi-national companies. Lockheed Martin and EMC announced their support for the cyber initiative, pledging US $1 million in a two-year agreement with BGU to finance cyber start-ups incubated at EMC’s Beer Sheva R&D facilities. IBM followed suit, announcing its plans to build a “centre of excellence” at CyberSpark; the want-ad for CTO of the centre has already been posted. Cisco is also on board, announcing its intention to invest in a US $120 million venture capital fund sponsored by JVP dedicated to early-stage cyber security companies.
Levering Cyber Savvy
Israel is not a newcomer to the cyber market. It is one area where capabilities developed in the military can find ready expression in the commercial. In addition, the domestic market for IT security products in Israel is of necessity highly demanding, given the frequent threats Israel faces in cyberspace. Israel has already made a name for itself in IT security. Check Point (www.checkpoint.com), now 20 years old and valued at US $13 billion, has become synonymous with network security. Another 20-year-old, Verint Systems (www.verint.com) has made the FinTech100 list of top technology for the global financial services industry. With a base of 1,100 customers worldwide, CyberArk (www.cyberark.com) has become a leader in the privileged account security market and is installed in 8 of the world’s top ten banks. Established in 2006, Israeli anti-fraud and malware start-up Trusteer was acquired last September by IBM. Over the years, about 25 Israeli IT security firms have been acquired by multinational concerns. Yet despite these achievements, Israel’s share in the US $60-80 billion cyber market is less than 10%. Israel has all the makings for a successful cyber cluster and the concentrated efforts being applied in Beer Sheva could well propel Israel’s cyber industry forward.
Cultivating Creative Disruption
The Cybertech exhibition in 2014 served not only as a platform for the big names and big announcements; nearly 60 Israeli cyber startups were showcased at the international conference as well.
Founded a little over a year ago, CyActive (www.cyactive.com) was the first company to receive funding from JVP Beer Sheva Cyber Lab. Its software is designed to put an end to the cat-and-mouse cycle between cyber attackers and defenders by proactively vaccinating IT systems against projected viruses. According to industry experts, over 98% of the malware are variants of earlier versions, modified to evade security measures. This creates asymmetry in the absurdly low costs incurred by hackers as opposed to the considerably higher costs borne by enterprises in both damages and defensive measures. It also perpetuates the offensive advantage held by hackers. The algorithms developed by CyActive analyze and anticipate malware developments. By proactively addressing the 98% of what’s out there, CyActive can likely control the problem for good, not only for computers but for all “smart” gadgets as well.
NativeFlow (www.nativeflow.com) has developed a mobile data protection platform enabling secure yet convenient “bring your own device” (BYOD) enterprise mobile device management. The concept is simpler than it sounds. For companies, secure information on employee smart phones, laptops and tablets remains secure. For employees, private information remains private and cannot be accessed or viewed by the employer. It is not necessary to migrate to a multi-phone/laptop/tablet environment, to sacrifice the full functionality of the device or to use special apps or programs.
Cyber Gym (www.cybergym.co.il) brings cyber security into the real world. It is a joint venture between Cyber Control (founded by ex-National Information Security and IDF Special Forces personnel) and the Israel Electric Company, which has the dubious distinction of being the most heavily cyber-attacked private entity in the universe. CyberGym conducts cyber-warfare preparedness training for government and private enterprises. It focuses on the weakest link in any emergency response system – the people who run it. Unlike computer simulations, CyberGym scenarios are played out in a real life environment and in real time. All hands are on deck and there is no “pause” button. The scenarios are customized to the organization and are fully recorded to facilitate debriefing and performance analysis. CyberGym was originally launched with critical infrastructure in mind but is not limited solely to infrastructure operators.
Sighting Cyber Synergies
CyberTech was attended by a number of foreign trade delegations, including a delegation from Finland. Like Israel, Finland ranks high on both cyber-preparedness and cyber-tech capabilities. Finnish company Codenomicon (www.codenomicon) exhibited at the conference together with its Israeli representative, Trinity (www.trinity.co.il) which engages in software development, particularly for security applications. Codenomicon’s DEFENSICS platform for software robustness testing quickly discovers system vulnerability caused by quality, resiliency and security flaws. The company’s VSRoom (Virtual Situation Room) is a situational awareness system for critical infrastructure. The system played a vital role in the multinational cyber security exercise organized by NATO in 2012.