Skip to main content

Five Lessons On Cybersecurity From The General Who Built Israel's Defenses

When it comes to cybersecurity, Israel sits at the center of the world. Israeli companies exported $6.5 billion a year worth of cyberproducts, about 10% of the world market, based on data from Israel’s National Cyber Bureau.
That’s up from only a 1-2% share of the much smaller market five years ago. The cybersecurity business in the United States is obviously bigger, but per capita, Israeli companies’ presence in this market — one of the fastest-growing opportunities of the 21st century — is huge. (The country has about 8 million people).
In short, the Startup Nation has a sub-specialty. How did it get one? It turns out to be a top-down initiative, straight from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week, I interviewed Isaac ben Israel, who’s called the father of Israel’s cybersecurity business. He recently wrote an academic-style book on the topic called Cybersecurity in Israel.
It was a fascinating conversation in ben Israel’s small office, decorated with posters of Albert Einstein (he has a degree in physics). I walked away thinking about howentrepreneurs and their supporters ought to look at a world in which technology is the biggest friend and greatest vulnerability.
By happenstance, almost, ben Israel, turned out to be an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder. He is a retired Israeli Defense Force major general and a long-time figure in the company’s military research and development world. He is now, among other titles, director of the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center at Tel Aviv University. In 2002, he said, Ehud Barak called Isaacson to ask him to develop cyber protection for the country’s infrastructure. In 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to launch the National Cyber Initiative. (This article in the New York Times has a good discussion of how much cyber warfare is part of nations’ military strategies now — but my interview with ben Israel focused on the industry that is growing up around commercial and military cyber risks.)
There’s a lot that’s different about the military world and the world of entrepreneurship, but in both of them, you base your actions partly on your own goals and partly on the ever-shifting landscape around you. Israel’s military, specifically the unit called 8200, is credited with creating the mindset and research that fuel its startup machine

Ben Israel served in the military from the time he was 19, during the Attrition War that followed the Six-Day War. “When people are shooting at you, it changes you for life,” he said. “You learn that you don’t stick strictly to what you were told to do.”
Here are five lessons I learned from him, and from further research.

If you’re a startup, cybersecurity is one of the biggest growth opportunities in decades. I was motivated to look into the topic more, especially in Alec Ross’s bookThe Industries of the Future, which contains a great chapter on cybersecurity. “Over the 20 years from 2000 to 2020, the cybersecurity market will have grown from a $3.3 billion market employing a few thousand people working in IT department to a $175 billion market providing critical infrastructure to just about every kind of business, big and small,” writes Ross, a former senior advisor for innovation to the Secretary of State.
Many cybersecurity firms will be software and hardware technology companies, but there will be others, too: from human resources firms skilled at finding the top talent in the field to consultancies who can help executives think through the questions of privacy versus defense, for instance.
Perhaps the most important element of a cybersecurity strategy is that it be adaptable. Ben Israel convened a committee of about 50 people to work with him in 2010. With the mandate from Netanyahu to protect Israel’s interests, ben Israel set out to create an ecosystem, one that would keep evolving as the hackers changed their tactics. He recognized that he needed the fluidity of the marketplace.
On a side note, for ecosystem builders: ben Israel paid attention to a long list of elements: culture, education, research universities, the credit system, fiscal policies, law and intellectual property protection, market conditions “and so on,” he said. It helped to recruit people to his cause because, even though he was working on an entrepreneurial ecosystem, it was in the national interests.



Popular posts from this blog

How a cyber attack hampered Hong Kong protesters

‘Not Hospital, Al-Shifa is Hamas Hideout & HQ in Gaza’: Israel Releases ‘Terrorists’ Confessions’ | Exclusive

Former FARC guerrilla, Colombian cop pose naked together to promote peace deal