Cyber threat is escalating in size and frequency

Last year saw a number of high-profile and highly effective ransomware attacks

Gil Perry, CEO of startup company D-ID, during a presentation to the 2018 CyberTech  conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photograph:   Reuters/Nir Elias

Gil Perry, CEO of startup company D-ID, during a presentation to the 2018 CyberTech conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photograph: Reuters/Nir Elias

 

Almost all the speakers who attended the 2018 CyberTech conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, last month hammered home the message that, as more and more devices are being connected to the internet, and with the greater use of cloud computing, the cyberattack surface is getting wider.

“Winter is coming,” Yigal Unna, newly-appointed director general at the Israel national cyber directorate, told the gathering. “The risk is getting darker, with hackers motivated by both financial and political purposes. As more devices get connected, malicious actors get an advantage.”

It was not all doom and gloom, however. The message from the gathering, which attracted more than 150 speakers, including some from key Israeli security agencies and hundreds of cybersecurity companies, was that the cybersecurity ecosystem was fighting back and developing cutting-edge technological solutions to combat the growing threats.

Cyber incidents were rarely out of the headlines last year. 2017 saw a number of high-profile and highly effective ransomware attacks. It is now clear that no organisation is immune.

The World Economic Forum ranks large-scale breach of cybersecurity as one of the five most serious risks posed to the world today, and the scale of the threat is expanding: by 2021 the global cost of cybersecurity breaches will reach an estimated €4.8 trillion, double the total for 2015.

“The digitisation of everything is making organisations dependent on highly connected technology. This brings numerous benefits but also makes us increasingly vulnerable,” said Nadav Zafrir, co-founder and CEO of Team8 and a former commander of the Israeli army’s 8200 cybersecurity spy unit.

Innovation

“To ensure ongoing innovation the cybersecurity community needs to help organisations push the envelope while finding a balance between cyber resilience and productivity.”

Israel has been a dominant global force in the development of IT security technologies, particularly in cybersecurity, for more than 25 years. Due to a variety of factors, including a concentration of professionals and vast government support, Israel is acknowledged as a pioneer in both the global development of disruptive cybersecurity solutions, as well as the design of revolutionary cyber policy.

The bad guys continue to evolve, demonstrating diabolical creativity. Technological developments are outstripping our strategic imagination

In 2017, the Israeli cybersecurity sector solidified its position as a global player, raising €652 million in venture capital and private equity investment – a record-breaking amount for the third year in a row, exceeding 2016 investments by 28 per cent, according to data released by Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks the Israeli tech ecosystem.

Israel’s cybersecurity industry comes second only to the US, and accounts for 16 per cent of overall cybersecurity investments worldwide. By the end of 2017 there were 420 active cybersecurity companies in Israel.

Computer software is about as unreliable a product as you are likely to come across. Whether through speed, arrogance or ignorance, computer code is invariably full of bugs.
"Simple legislation cannot keep up with technology to react to the rapid changes that are happening."

In 2017, the Israeli cybersecurity industry continued to be attractive to multinational companies, 30 of whom have cybersecurity-related R&D centres in Israel in a variety of areas including automotive systems, financial security and internet.

New heights

The former director of the CIA, Gen David Petraeus, told the CyberTech conference that despite Israel’s small size geographically, it was a leader in the cybersecurity sphere. He acknowledged that US-Israeli collaboration on cybersecurity had reached new heights.

“According to various foreign publications, our co-operation has harmed significantly Iran’s nuclear programme”, he said, hinting at the reports that the US and Israel had worked together to plant the malicious computer worm Stuxnet that damaged Iran’s nuclear programme before it was uncovered in 2010.

“The collaboration reaches new heights time and time again, far beyond what is being published in the media,” he said, while stressing the need to remain on guard.

“The bad guys continue to evolve, demonstrating diabolical creativity. Technological developments are outstripping our strategic imagination. Simple legislation cannot keep up with technology to react to the rapid changes that are happening.”

Individual hackers are now armed with state-level cyberattack capabilities

Beer Sheba, the capital of Israel’s Negev desert, some 60 miles south of Tel Aviv, is emerging as Israel’s cybertech centre. The city’s tech park was inaugurated four years ago adjacent to Israel defence forces’ technology base to jumpstart an innovation ecosystem in Israel’s arid southern periphery.

Upon completion the park hosted 23 high-tech firms, whereas today it holds more than 60 different companies, established and start-ups. Of the 60-plus start-ups, more than a dozen are cyber-related.

Global co-operation

A recurring theme by speakers at the CyberTech gathering was the need for regional and global co-operation.

Jerusalem Venture Partners chairman and former Knesset member Erel Margalit alleged that Iran had an “army of hackers” operating in different countries in 11 independent groups with different code names.

Europe, he warned, had 65 nuclear energy facilities that drills have shown to be vulnerable.

Other speakers warned of the potential dangers faced by pharmaceutical and aviation companies and the health sector. The conclusion: no one is safe, but solutions are available.

“Individual hackers are now armed with state-level cyberattack capabilities,” said Nir Falevich, head of the cybersecurity sector at Start-Up Nation Central. “2017 will be remembered as the year when the cybersecurity sector, both worldwide and Israeli, began to invest highly significant effort in defending connected devices.”

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