24 June 2016

More global cooperation needed to win cyber war, Israeli guru says

June 21, 2016

Head of team that set out Israel’s national cybersecurity policy says country sees up to 2 million attacks a day

More cooperation is needed globally among companies and governments to fight the ever changing threats to the cyber universe, Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, who led a task force that set out Israel’s national cyber security policy, said in an interview.

“There is not enough being done globally,” Ben-Israel, who heads the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center at the Tel Aviv University, said on the sidelines of a cybersecurity conference.

“Everyone agrees that international cooperation is very important in the war against cyber crime or attacks, but no one really knows what is the meaning of international cooperation in cyber space. There are small steps here and there but it is very difficult to get international cooperation. People say let’s share intelligence, but no one is sharing intelligence. We can say it, but no one is doing it, so we should find other ways.”

Increasing mobile and web usage and social media are among the key factors contributing to the “explosive increase” in cyber threats,MarketsandMarkets, a Dallas, Texas-based market research firm said in a report. The global cyber security market will be worth more than $170 billion by 2020, according to an estimate by MarketsandMarkets, with companies globally focusing on security solutions but also services.

Israel witnesses 200,000 to 2 million cyber attacks each day on critical infrastructures like water, electricity, and railways, Ben-Israel said.

“Cyber security is the dark side of the computer,” Ben-Israel said. “We developed the computer, we made it ubiquitous and faster. But we have also created a huge dependence on it, and the bad guys could use this weak point to damage our security. Cybersecurity is about protecting the bright side from the dark side,” he said.

There are some 400 private and public cybersecurity companies active in Israel today addressing these threats, and Israel’s start-up industry has been growing at a roughly 15 percent rate in recent years, according to data provided by Tel Aviv based IVC Research Center, which tracks Israel’s high-tech industry. More than $300 million were raised by cybersecurity companies in Israel in 2015, in 72 financing rounds, IVC said.

Globally, investment in cybersecurity companies reached an all-time high in 2015, rising to $3.8 billion compared with $2.8 billion in 2014 and $1.1 billion in 2011, according to New York-based data company CB Insights.

Computers have on average a generation life of 1.5 years, Ben-Israel said. As long as they evolve, so also cyber security technology needs to adapt, he said.

“One cannot talk about trends in cyber security, the technology is always changing so fast,” Ben-Israel said. “We don’t know what the future threats will be. We know about past threats and the current threats but we don’t have enough knowledge about the future because it is changing all the time.”

Ben-Israel studied mathematics, physics and philosophy at Tel Aviv university and received his PhD in 1988. During his service in the army in which he served until 2002, Ben-Israel served in several posts in operations, intelligence and weapon development units of the Israel Air Force and served as head of military research and development of the army and the Defense Ministry.

In 2011 Ben-Israel led a task force that formulated Israel’s national cyber policy and founded the National Cyber Headquarters in the Prime Minister’s office. In February 2015 the government decided to set up a new national cyber authority.

“During our work in the task force we asked ourselves what we need to have in order to create a living cyber ecosystem that will nave new ideas all the time, adapt itself quickly to the ever changing technology,” he said.

The rise of cyber security studies at Israeli universities coupled with human capital coming out of the army and a market opportunity identified by the local high tech industry led to the growth of Israel’s cyber industry, he said. Israeli exports of cybersecurity products account today for roughly 8 to 10 percent of what is estimated to be a $60 billion global cybersecurity industry, he said.

Israel’s flourishing cyber industry is very much part of the high-tech ecosystem that has made Israel known as the start-up nation, Ben-Israel said.

“It is mainly about developing human capital,” he said. “Israelis argue all the time, we have a highly developed art of criticism. The people of Israel criticized Moses. It all started there. Criticism is good for innovation.”

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