Syrian Cyberwarfare Highlights Israeli Security Tech


Not all the economic fallout in Israel from the Syrian crisis is bad. While the Tel Aviv stock exchange and the shekel have dropped, cybersecurity is one sector that may benefit from the situation, The Jerusalem Post reported.

When, for example, a group called the Syrian Electronic Army attacked The New York Times website and other internet targets last week, it called more attention to the issue of cybersecurity, in which Israel offers unique expertise.

“The big headlines help, because they are making cybersecurity a boardroom discussion,” said Gabi Tirosh, general partner at JVP, the largest investor in Israeli cybersecurity.

“In the past, it was something very technical that only IT staff cared about. Now CEOs and COOs (chief operating officers) know that the company is going to be evaluated and measured on their ability to continue operating under cyberattack. In that sense, the big headlines push up demand.”

Some recent transactions reflect Israel’s leadership in the field. In August, IBM acquired Israel’s Trusteer computer security company for nearly a $1 billion, while start-ups Seculer and Cybera received about $10 million in investments. JVP, which opened a separate Cyber Labs division in May, said 100 cybersecurity start-ups have sought funding with it this year alone.

Actually, the Syrian hackers are the least signifcant of recent developments, said Udi Mokady, CEO of Cyber-Ark, which has taken over navigation of Israel’s largest private security firm since the Trusteer sale.

For the first 15 years of the internet’s growth, he explained, security was about “keeping the bad guys out.”

“2013 is the year where cyber entered phase two. Probably the most eventful year I can recall,” he said.

Chinese hacking was discovered to be astonishingly extensive. One unit was found to have “stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations, and had demonstrated the capability and intent to steal from dozens of organizations simultaneously.”

Then there was Edward Snowden, a Booz Allen U.S. government contractor who used his access to data to purloin data about secret National Security Agency spying programs.

“The borderline between an insider and outsider has been shut,” said Mokady, whose software focuses on building a “vault” to protect privileged access to a company’s most vital data.

Unlike the largely indiscriminate cyberattacks of yesteryear which featured widespread viruses, “these days, the attacks are tailor-made for organizations … can get into your firewall, can sit there sometimes a few months or a few years, and then activate themselves on D-Day, to take out your systems or get information,” Tirosh said.

“The most malicious threats are not those that you hear in the headlines. They’re the ones that are covered up, that nobody wants to speak about.”