Guns, drones, and surveillance equipment: Big Brother steps out in Tel Aviv
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Guns, drones, and surveillance equipment: Big Brother steps out in Tel Aviv

Some of the technology on show at the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition is positively spooky

Illustrative: Visitors to the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition, Tel Aviv, are picked up by surveillance software that uses facial recognition, November 13, 2018. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
Illustrative: Visitors to the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition, Tel Aviv, are picked up by surveillance software that uses facial recognition, November 13, 2018. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

It’s a very scary world out there.

That, at least, is how I felt after spending a day among Israeli exhibitors at the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition and Conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

There, among the Israeli exhibits of guns, drones, counter-drones, surveillance equipment and sensors for detecting explosives, narcotics and toxic industrial chemicals, I realized just how far technology has come: it can pick my face out of a huge crowd at an airport, listen to my private conversation when dozens of others are talking in a room, and pick up my presence through thermal imaging.

Big Brother and Big Sister R Here.

Israel – as the director general of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, Yigal Unna, told visitors from all over the world — certainly packs a punch when it comes to operating in cyberspace.

A drone on show at the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition, Tel Aviv, November 13, 2018. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Out of the top 500 cyber companies in the world, 354 are American but Israel is second with 82 – 40 of them registered in the US for tax reasons but nevertheless working in the Holy Land.

And bear in mind, said Unna, that the US economy is 3,000 times larger than Israel’s and its population is 50 times as large.

Looking on the bright side (because the thought that some of these things might be exploited by the dark side is too alarming), the varied wares on show were supposed to make the world a better place.

Not that I was privy to details about all of them.

An exhibit at the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition, Tel Aviv, November 13, 2018. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

At the Verint Systems booth, uniformed police officers from Chile received an explanation in Spanish while a French-speaking sales representative promoted the virtues of the company’s security and intelligence data mining software to two security experts from Senegal.

When I stepped forward, a sales rep told me he could not talk to journalists.

“Security,” whispered the sales lady at another booth, after politely refusing to talk to me about her company, Wintego.

Wintego advertises itself as a provider of “advanced communication, cyber intelligence and data extraction solutions.”

A model of a dog sporting cyber equipment at the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition, Tel Aviv, November 13, 2018. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

The people at XM Cyber, by contrast, were more than happy to kvell about their advanced persistent threat simulation and remediation software, which had just secured $22 million in funding.

In simple language, XM Cyber – co-founded by former Mossad head Tamir Pardo — provides an automated “good guy hacker” to constantly look for security breaches in massive data systems and — if it finds breaches — to show what should be done to plug the holes.

A visitor tries out a rifle with a difference at the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition, Tel Aviv, November 13, 2018. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

At the Sharp Shooter stall, a visitor was trying out a rifle designed to help military and law enforcement professionals to “swiftly and accurately neutralize their targets,” according to the blurb.

While traditional rifles require the holder to aim by looking through a gun sight, Sharp Shooter lets technology lock onto the target for an accurate shot.

“One shot. One hit,” the promotional poster declared.

Safe Shoot, on the other hand, aims to prevent friendly fire by equipping fighters from the same side with devices that use GPS, radio frequency and other sensors to alert them if a colleague is in their line of fire, even if that colleague is not visible.

This technology seeks to address the situation in armies worldwide in which up to 25 percent of all injuries reportedly result from friendly fire.

A device for video and audio surveillance at the 5th International Homeland Security and Cyber Exhibition, Tel Aviv, November 13, 2018. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Insight Acoustics was meanwhile advocating for its “acoustic surveillance…for situations where lipreading is not an option.”

There, a salesperson showed me a ceiling tile, modified with a small camera and lots of microphones pointing in different directions.

The data it collects — which can be used in real time in a surveillance room, or afterwards in a recording — allows the operator to zoom in on different people in a video and to listen in on what each person is saying.

The young man told me that a lot of visitors had expressed interest in the product, especially from airport security and surveillance companies.

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