Intel seeks Israeli tech to foil hackers with deceptive chips

US giant teams up with Israeli cybersecurity firms to brainstorm new technologies, sets up cybersecurity center as cyber attacks look set to become fiercer

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Tech giant Intel's campus in Santa Clara, California.  
Tech giant Intel's campus in Santa Clara, California. (AFP PHOTO / KIMIHIRO HOSHINO)

US giant Intel Corp. is teaming up with two Israeli cybersecurity firms and expanding its cybersecurity operations in Israel to locate cutting edge technologies that will help the firm and its customers fend off increasingly daring cyber attacks.

Intel said it will collaborate with Team8, a cybersecurity think tank and venture fund, to exchange information and develop solutions for current and future threats. It also announced the opening of a new cybersecurity center that will operate in Jerusalem and Haifa, led by cybersecurity entrepreneur Jacob Mendel.

The collaboration with Team8 “is meant to help Intel develop cutting edge cyber technologies and products,” said Rick Echevarria, vice president, Software and Services Group and General Manager, Platform Security Division at Intel Corporation, in a statement. “Team8 will be instrumental in helping us pinpoint the opportunities for Intel innovation to address the challenges in the cyber security segment.”

Additionally, Intel and Tel Aviv-based cybersecurity firm Illusive Networks said Wednesday they have entered a collaboration agreement to develop deceptive technologies to fight advanced persistent threats (APTs) by using both hardware and software. Illusive produces software that deceives cyber attackers by planting false information on the networks it protects.

A recent Intel event in Israel (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90
An Intel event in Israel (Moshe Shai/FLASH90

The deals, in which no money is involved at this stage, represent an additional thrust by Intel into the Israeli market and in the local cyber arena. It is also part of Intel’s push to become a key player in the interconnected world, in which more and more defenses will be needed to protect the vast numbers of devices that are becoming connected globally. In April 2016, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich laid out the company’s new strategy of transforming itself from a PC company to one that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices.

Intel has been developing some of its fastest and most advanced processors in the so-called startup nation. In March, the company announced a deal to buy Mobileye, an automotive technology firm, for a whopping $15.3 billion, the largest ever purchase of an Israeli tech firm. Intel’s new cyber center in Israel, which opened a few months ago, has employed a number of cybersecurity researchers who will use and develop advanced techniques and research insights to help Intel sharpen its products against future security threats, the US chip maker said in a statement.

Hunting for protection

Companies like Intel, Google, IBM, Cisco Systems and Oracle are among the tech corporations that are on the hunt for cybersecurity technologies as greater digitization and interconnectedness leads to greater prosperity but also to bigger threats. Cybersecurity firms globally raised over $3.4 billion in 2016, up from $1.4 billion in 2014, according to CB Insights, a New York-based data firm. In April, Intel spun off its cybersecurity company McAfee, making it an independent company.

Malicious software dubbed Crash Override or Industroyer was reportedly responsible for a 2016 power outage in Ukraine, while in May a worldwide extortionate cyberattack wreaked havoc on over 10,000 organizations and 200,000 computers in over 150 countries, highlighting once more how vulnerable companies and nations are to the growing amount of cyber threats globally. The cybersecurity market is estimated to see growth from $112 billion in 2016 to $202 billion in 2021, according to MarketsandMarkets, a data firm.

Cyberattacks are going to get worse, and such vital civilian infrastructures as electricity, telecommunications and transportation will be a new battleground for cybercrime as nations fail to cooperate effectively to block the threat, Russian cybersecurity expert Eugene Kaspersky warned in an interview with The Times of Israel earlier this month.

Intel to join Team8’s brainstorming team

As part of the collaboration with Team8, Intel will join the syndicate of companies within the VC fund, including Microsoft Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures and Citigroup, to brainstorm about what cyber protection is needed in the market, assess existing inefficiencies and gaps, come up with solutions to address these and future challenges, and become a site in which new technologies can be tested, said Nadav Zafrir, Co-Founder and CEO of Team8 and a former commander of Israel’s Technology & Intelligence Unit 8200.

(L to R) Team8 Founders Nadav Zafrir, Liran Grinberg, and Israel Grimberg, (Courtesy)
(L to R) Team8 Founders Nadav Zafrir, Liran Grinberg, and Israel Grimberg, (Courtesy)

Intel will also explore new business opportunities with the companies created by Team8, a separate statement said. Team8 was founded by veterans ofthe IDF’ 8200 unit. Since its launch in 2014, Team8 has enabled the launch of two companies, Illusive and Claroty, a maker of cybersecurity technology for critical infrastructures.
Intel “will bring their unique vantage point – which is the hardware level” to computing, Internet of Things (IOT), automotive and cloud technologies. This “for us is very very important because it is a perspective that right now we don’t have yet,” Zafrir said in a phone interview, adding that companies, academia and governments need to collaborate to tackle the growing cyber threat globally.

Adding deception to hardware, like chips

Intel and Illusive will work jointly to develop cybersecurity products that will add a layer of deception to hardware, like chips, something that is not being done at the moment, said Ofer Israeli, the CEO of Illusive, in a phone interview.

The Illusive team (Illusive Networks)
The Illusive team (Illusive Networks)

This is “a new layer of complexity where you involve hardware, which is kind of out of reach of the attacker,” Israeli said. “This is completely new and is the next stage in deception.”

“Attackers are innovating at a very rapid pace and this collaboration demonstrates Intel’s engagement to move beyond traditional security measures and effectively protect its customers against sophisticated adversaries,” Israeli said.

Intel is Israel’s largest privately held employer and exporter and is an important component of the country’s high-tech industry and its economy. Set up in 1974 in Haifa, the firm now employs some 10,000 workers, 60 percent of whom are engaged in R&D.

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