Israeli firms, ministry set up consortium to tackle aviation cyberthreats

Group includes startups and veteran cybersecurity and aviation companies; the aim is to create a virtual bulletproof cockpit door for the cybersphere, Israel’s cyberchief says

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

Israeli firms and the Ministry of Economy are setting up a consortium to deal with aviation cyber-threats (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)
Israeli firms and the Ministry of Economy are setting up a consortium to deal with aviation cyber-threats (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

A group of Israeli cybersecurity firms, along with the Economy and Industry Ministry, has set up a new cyber consortium for the aviation industry.

The announcement was made Wednesday as part of the 5th International Conference of Homeland Security and Cyber, organized by Israel’s Export Institute.

The new consortium includes Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), CyberArk, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., El Al’s Cockpit Innovation hub, Karamba Security and ClearSky, a combination of veteran cybersecurity and aerospace firms, which already offer “a broad range of aviation, security, intelligence and cyber solutions for the global market,” alongside “young startups with cutting edge cyber products and technologies,” the statement said.

The consortium has been set up to offer comprehensive, end-to-end cybersecurity solutions for the commercial aviation industry: airports, airlines and aircraft, the statement said. Additional Israeli companies have already expressed an interest in joining the consortium, the statement added.

Yigal Unna, director general of the Israel National Cyber Directorate speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv on Nov. 14, 2018 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

“We are trying to foresee” events, “not wait for September 11,” Yigal Unna, director general of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, said in a press briefing on Wednesday, of the initiative.

After a spate of hijackings in the 1960s and early 1970s Israel developed a bulletproof cockpit door for its airlines, a move that helped halt hijackings on Israeli planes. It was adopted by the US Federal Aviation Administration and other countries only after September 11, 2001.

Because of these doors and other measures, “now hijacking is something obsolete,” he said. The idea is to try to do the same for aviation cyber-security, he said.

“The civil aviation industry like any other industry is becoming more and more digitalized, more and more high tech. We see more and more threat vectors and cyber attack vectors. And we want to think in advance, before the fact,” he said. “In Israel we have the benefit of bringing everyone together” quickly and easily. “And we are fast movers.”

The initiative, which includes the “big gorillas” of the Israeli cybersecurity and aviation industry, will benefit Israel and any other international entity that wishes to take part, he said.

“It is a global effort, it should be,” he said.

The international conference, held in Tel Aviv over two days, was attended by over 70 delegations from over 80 countries from around the world. Israel has a global reputation for its cybersecurity prowess and was home to more than 400 active cybersecurity companies as of end 2017. The sector in Israel has attracted over $800 million in investments – 16 percent of the world’s total cybersecurity investments in 2017, according to data compiled by Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks the Israeli tech ecosystem.

Attendees of the international homeland security and cyber-security conference in Tel Aviv; Nov. 14, 2018 (Shoshanna Solomon)

At the conference, Check Point Software Technologies CEO Gil Shwed said that the cybersecurity industry both in Israel and globally is undergoing and will continue to undergo a process of consolidation, as there are many small startups with very many solutions, each addressing different segments of cybersecurity problems.

“Startups are important, there is reason for innovation, but our industry is undergoing consolidation,” he said. Corporations globally are looking for innovation, but they can’t work with too many vendors at a time, he said. The challenge is to take all of the technology available, and create a “holistic approach to cybersecurity.”

He said corporations and institutions globally are generations behind the hackers regarding the protections they have in place – they are at generation 2-3 of technology, whereas hacker sophistication is already at generation five, he said, with multi-vector attacks, technologies developed by professionals and sponsored by states.

Check Point Software Technologies CEO and founder Gil Shwed speaking at the Homeland Security and cyber-security conference in Tel Aviv; Nov. 14, 2018 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

“We need to move to the fifth generation of cybersecurity,” he said, doing prevention and not only detection. “We need automated tools to prevent attacks from starting,” he said. “The key is prevention,” and although many doubt this may be possible, “I believe it is possible,” he said.

“We need to be running faster than the hackers.”

Check Point Software had revenue of $1.8 billion in 2017 and has a market value of some $17 billion.

Adam Ely, VP and deputy chief information security officer of Walmart, USA, said that his job is to protect the hundreds of millions of consumers and the firms’ 2.3 million employees from cyber-attacks.

“The attacks are always getting better,” he said. “We have to understand the risk and evolve with the landscape,” which is always changing.

“We just have to keep on going,” he said, adding that he doesn’t “see an end yet” to the huge threat to cybersecurity.

Israel deals with 10,000-100,000 low-level cyber attacks a day

At the briefing with reporters Unna, of Israel’s Cyber Directorate, said the nation has cybersecurity partnerships with many countries, where information and data is shared. “When you open and share information in cybersecurity, it is more than half of the solution.”

In response to a question, he added that he is “not aware of specific threats” by hackers to the nation’s electoral system, “but we are taking all the precautions, and we try to make sure that all of our systems, everything that is related to people’s trust in the government and the capabilities of the government are well protected,” also with regard to cybersecurity.

He added that Israel deals with over 10,000 to 100,000 low-level cybersecurity attacks a day.

“We all the time have attacks,” he said. The attacks vary in scale, he said. “If it is shark bites or more mosquito bites. (For) mosquito bites, it is tens or hundreds of thousands a day. On a higher level it is a different number.”

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