Thousands of people from Israel and abroad are expected to visit Cybertech 2014, a first-ever event taking place this week to show off Israel’s prowess in cyber-defense technologies. The event was important enough for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to personally open the proceedings on Sunday. “I think Israel is unquestionably a leading power, disproportionate to our size,” the prime minister said, “with great talents and great resources. We have decided to put these resources together in a coherent way and we have structured a National Cyber Bureau.”
The Bureau, said Dr. Eviatar Matania, who heads the organization, has a three-fold purpose: To set cyber-defense policy for the country’s institutions, to develop legislation and procedures for government and private enterprise cyber-security, and “to turn Israel into a global cyber incubator. We have a great ecosystem in Israel, and a great deal of talent. We see the establishment of the Bureau as an important step for Israel and the international community, something that will help us and the rest of the world.”
Cybertech 2014 is the brainchild of Amir Rapoport, editor of Israel Defense magazine. According to event chairman Rami Efrati, who heads the Bureau’s civilian branch, some 5,500 people from Israel and abroad were expected to visit the show to see the latest in Israeli cyber-tech. “There are so many important things going on in cyber-security here, we wanted to gather as much of it in one place and show it off to Israelis, and to the world,” Efrati told the Times of Israel on the sidelines of the conference.
Among the visitors are over 450 heads of industry and cyber-security agencies from around the world, said Efrati. Among the larger delegations was the U.S. one including 50 people from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security. Delegations also arrived from South Korea, Mexico, NASA, along with representatives of the armies of Brazil, Mexico, Italy and the Netherlands, IT companies from Colombia, Ghana, and Nigeria and a cyber-security team from Canada.
At a press event, Matania said that the worldwide market for cyber-security products, services, and technologies was currently worth about $80 billion annually — a sum that is constantly rising — and Israel has about 10% of that. “That makes us a power in cyber-security,” he said, echoing what Netanyahu had said just hours before when he opened the event.
The cyber-security world, in Israel and abroad, is currently bifurcated; there are the old-line companies, like Checkpoint, Symantec, and Kaspersky (all represented at the event) that produce security solutions for individual users, business, and enterprise, and there are the new start-ups that take a more sophisticated approach – using heuristics, crowdsourcing, and other methods – to develop cyber-defense strategies.
Israel’s cyber-defense start-up scene is especially active and dynamic, said Efrati, and it was important to support it, to the extent that he arranged for the 75 cyber-security start-ups at the show to attend and display for free. “That was my one condition for running this show when they asked me to step up,” said Efrati. “These companies have great ideas and technologies. It’s important that they get exposure.”
Cooperation between nations is necessary in order for cyber-defenses to be effective, said Matania. “One of our goals is to turn Israel into a ‘trusted domain,’ a place where we can successfully fend off cyber-attacks on a routine basis. The more nations that join that domain, the better.” With that, he said, some of Israel’s cyber-secrets will remain secret, in order to ensure that the country is well protected and one step ahead of hackers, he said.
During his remarks earlier, Netanyahu made the same point. “We have created a special organization to try to mesh together these elements, obviously to afford cyber defense to our critical systems, to the country; but also to see how we can share with others our experience and our talents. And this requires a decision, which I have made, to relax or reduce some of the constraints that we have traditionally put on such business. The government usually puts constraints on things that have implications for national security, but we have consciously made the decision to lower these restraints because we’re taking a gamble, if you will, on the growth of these partnerships, entailing some risks, but willing to do so in order to get a much bigger gain – a bigger gain for Israel, a bigger for these companies; also a bigger gain for you,” he said.
As part of the conference, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Beersheba Municipality and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev announced the establishment of the “CyberSpark” national cyber center in Beesheba. The complex will be unique in that it will bring together large multinationals, investors, start-ups, academic research, and even a high school, all dedicated to developing cyber-security solutions. In his speech, Netanyahu said, “Beersheba will not only be the cyber capital of Israel but one of the most important places in the cyber security field in the world.”
Between the start-ups, CyberSpark, and the multinationals that have already or will soon be announcing investments – such as IBM, which Monday announced that it would open a cyber-tech R&D program here — in Israeli cyber-tech, Israel hopes to be able to hold back the tide of cyber-chaos hackers seek to unleash. “There will always be states and non-states, for example organized crime, that will make it their goal to violate our systems,” Netanyahu said. “And there may always be an arms race between those who seek to attack and those who seek to defend or counter-attack. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot bring a series of norms to mitigate this problem.” He, along with the rest of the world, Netanyahu said, are relying on Israeli technology for that mitigation.