How Israel is accelerating cyber security innovation

By: Aharon Aharon

Threats in the cyber sphere not only pose significant homeland security risks, but the growing connectivity of physical infrastructure and the online sphere – from connected homes to sensitive business data to transportation networks to autonomous and connected cars and beyond – highlights the inextricable link between physical security and cyber-security.

Israel has built an impressive innovation infrastructure for meeting these modern challenges head-on. Hence the key role of Israel’s academic institutions, with their world-leading cyber-security departments, along with the sophistication of bodies like the IDF’s elite Unit 8200, which have been indispensable in developing Israel’s cyber-security prowess and have supplied much of the talent for Israel’s leading cyber-security startups. It’s this foresight and perceptiveness that has fueled Israeli innovation and ingenuity – and which will help keep the world a safer place for years to come.

Thanks to such forward-thinking entities, Israel became world renowned as a cyber-security superpower, attracting over $800 million in investments – 16 percent of the world’s total cyber-security investments in 2017 – not bad for a country that accounts for a mere 0.1 percent of the global population.

Home to more than 400 active cyber-security companies at the end of 2017, Israel is pioneering cyber innovations for an ever-more connected world. Forecasters project that there will be 20.4 billion IoT devices worldwide by 2020, and Israeli technology companies aim to play a key role in keeping them secure.

Thousands visitors from more than 80 countries will see Israel’s cyber ecosystem up close at the HLS & Cyber conference in Tel Aviv from Nov. 12-15. Thought leaders, technologists, and top government officials from Israel and around the world will discuss leading topics at the intersection of homeland security and cyber-security – and it’s hard to think of a more appropriate setting for this event.

What’s behind Israel’s success in the cyber domain? As in other tech sectors, the country benefits from its excellent human capital, with eminent university-trained talent along with IDF-trained cyber-security experts regularly transferring their knowledge from the military to the civilian sphere. The sophistication of the Israeli military’s cyber operations also reflects the geopolitical realities of the Middle East, where internal and external threats to Israel’s security have spurred the creation of advanced cyber solutions.

Another key factor in Israel’s cyber prowess: Israeli technologists and entrepreneurs have long gained a reputation for their key expertise in interdisciplinary collaboration, and, as our lives become more connected in almost every endeavor known to humankind, that interdisciplinary acumen lends itself to excellence in IT security as well.

In addition, as the demands put upon our cyber-security experts grow exponentially due to a surging number of attack vectors, Artificial Intelligence – which can help those experts smartly automate responses to growing threats – plays an increasingly important role in keeping us safe. Here too, Israel’s international leadership in the field of AI lends itself to excellence in cyber-security.

The Israeli government has also played a pivotal role in jump-starting cyber innovation. The Israel Innovation Authority has invested in more than 100 cyber-security companies, making it the top cyber investor in the country. Harnessing its extensive networks, R&D support, and acclaimed accelerator programs, the Authority is helping the Israeli cyber industry meet the globe’s most critical security needs – from generating real-time vulnerability intelligence and analysis to safeguarding critical digital infrastructure against malicious actors.

A glance at the Authority’s activities in the cyber sphere underscores its commitment to bringing the best technologies to market at a time of mounting cyber-security needs. The KABARNIT (“captain” in Hebrew) consortium, which has received 55 million NIS in funding from the Authority, facilitates collaboration among large Israel-based cyber companies, paving the way for top level cooperation, leading to new generic technologies to identify and understand cyber-attacks.

Through the KIMDA 1 program, run in cooperation with the Israeli National Cyber Directorate, the Authority has disbursed 100 million NIS in grants to cyber companies. Following its success, KIDMA 2 program was launched two months ago, targeting newer companies with early-stage funding challenges. The Authority will partner with these companies with higher funding rate to help them mature, including support for R&D pilots. Final goal being to help Israeli cyber companies grow into large scale and complete companies locally.

The Israel Innovation Authority has also formed numerous partnerships in the realm of cyber-security with countries and jurisdictions around the globe. New Jersey, for example, recently became the 10th U.S. state to ink a cooperation agreement with the Authority, in a deal that will promote collaboration between companies from the Garden State and Israeli startups in sectors including cyber-security, AI, clean energy, life sciences, and financial services. Other notable initiatives include a $40 million R&D and innovation agreement with India and the Israel-Europe R&D Directorate– through which the Authority coordinates with EU member states on a wide range of projects, including cyber-security, advanced manufacturing, transport, health, and much more. As part of these projects, the Authority matches Israeli companies and foreign companies to partner on game-changing R&D projects.

As our lives and livelihoods migrate more and more online, both our financial and physical well-being become more and more dependent on protecting against malicious actors in cyberspace. Israel’s world-leading prowess in the field of cyber-security promises to help keep the planet a safer place, both on and offline.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aharon Aharon is the CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority, an independent public entity that operates for the benefit of the Israeli innovation ecosystem and Israeli economy as a whole. Its role is to nurture and develop Israeli innovation resources, while creating and strengthening the infrastructure and framework needed to support the entire knowledge industry. Prior to his role at the Authority, Aharon served as the VP of Hardware Technologies and General Manager of Apple Israel. His previous roles were Co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Camero, a startup developing through-the-wall micro-power radars, active Chairman of the Board at Discretix, a startup providing solutions for data security, CEO of Seabridge, a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens and COO of Zoran. Prior to that, he held a number of senior management positions at the IBM Research Division. Aharon holds a B.Sc and M.Sc in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering respectively from the Technion, where he lectured for more than 15 years.