Cybertech 2020: how to stay innovative in cyber? by Zacharie Lahmi, Lead Analyst AI at Keyrus Innovation Factory

Cybertech Global opened once again in Tel Aviv their annual conference discussing the latest trends in cyber. With more than 18,000 participants including over 160 international delegations, experts gather and share their latest successes and challenges.

Zacharie Lahmi

Zacharie Lahmi

For 2-full days CISO, CIO, cyber experts, business leaders, startups mingled and shared their stories, their insights, and challenges on how to collaborate with innovative companies in cyber.

The annual Rendezvous  

If the conference now opened different spinoffs in the USA, in Asia, and in Europe, Tel Aviv is still playing a central role worldwide in cyber and is seen as a pioneer. For instance, in 2018 Israel (and mostly Tel Aviv) captured close to 20% of the global investment made in Cyber companies worldwide. To put that in perspective, it means that an economy representing a tenth of 1% of the world’s population draws a fifth of global investment in cybersecurity. 

At Cybertech, one could actually see what it means. International investors and Multinational companies (MNC) are looking for Israeli talents & technology for decades and Cybertech success is no surprise.

Why is Cybertech so successful?

1. Cyber is led by Military technology
First, the working force is largely dominated by IDF veterans, from elite cyber-units that founded startups and bring their military experience into the private sector. This kind of experience, dealing with state & superpower level threats, is highly valuable when transferred into the private sector. Especially in a world threatened by large scale industrial espionage, and attacks on critical infrastructure, military experience is a clear advantage.

2. Technology brings new threats
Second, cyberattacks and information infrastructure breakdown are seen as major risks in the next decade according to the Global Risks Reports from the WEF. Most businesses are moving to the cloud, either partially or integrally, which creates great opportunities for them but also exposes them to new threats. Combining these two elements, one can understand the appeal for the largest Israeli cyber event.

“One risk that was largely discussed was the lack of a global technology governance framework”

Globalization led to global threats. Cloud computing, the rise of connected devices and artificial intelligence creates new levels of threats as highlighted in a previous piece. Startups are surfing on these trends, as the success of Guardicore attest for. The Israeli-based company, recently raised 65m$ to scale its solution to protect data-centers and cloud environments.

Our current machine-learning algorithms are more powerful than ever but are still easily fooled. Perturbations or adversarial AI are simple to hack, especially in image-based applications such as autonomous vehicles. But beyond cyber insecurity, one risk that was largely discussed was the lack of a global technology governance framework.

Legal systems are not adapted to cyber threats, which means that organizations and even governments are not well equipped to fight a criminal that committed a crime thousands of kilometers away from its physical location, in a different country, under different laws. 

BigID tries to fill that gap and brings machine learning to help companies meet the existing data privacy and protection regulations like the GDPR and CCPA. The startup enables organizations to discover and map all types of data from all enterprise data sources, automatically classify, correlate, and catalog identity and entity data into profile, manage and protect enterprise data with advanced data intelligence; and automate date privacy and protection.

Another growing threat that took a significant place in the discussions is the rise of Cyber Influence and Deep Fake. In a digital world, most of the information we share and receive is online, and it influences our behaviors. Influence and disinformation campaigns contribute to geopolitical and geo-economic uncertainty. Of course, everyone thinks about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but every government and every large company should be concerned with this new threat.

Cyabra is addressing this challenge and despite its young age protects Fortune 500 brands and the public sector agencies, from all over the globe, against fake news attacks. Backed by Tel Aviv University, the company incorporated only two years ago and already works with global organizations, from their office in Israel and in the United Stated.

Innovation comes from startup collaborations

As a rule of thumb, one could group companies in three categories:

  1. The leaders: IBM, Microsoft, Checkpoint and the others…
  2. The rising stars: Startups that already have from tens to hundreds of millions in ARR (around 40 companies represented)
  3. The Challengers: Startups that can afford a booth, have their first 5-20 customers and try to scale (over 100 companies represented)

Most of the innovation still happens among the challengers and a good way of foreseeing what will be the next big threat is to look at what problems early-stage companies are trying to solve. Leaders and rising stars are usually solving bigger pains but paradoxically have less resources to put on solving issues that are not directly related to their core business.

For instance, despite all the protection against ransomware, 92% of the breaches occurs by phishing emails with a malicious link. Bitdam, one of the winners of the Innovation Challenge protects enterprise email, cloud drives and instant messaging from malicious files and links. The company does not aim to act as an end-to-end solution but integrate perfectly in a suite of cyber solutions by focusing on a specific pain.

Cycode, another innovation challenger is also addressing a niche problem. Observing the expansion of international teams of developers and the use of cloud-based repositories, this startup provides a detection & response solution to the source code inventory. Cycode connects to all of the organization’s on-premise and cloud SCMs and code repositories, providing ongoing visibility and automated monitoring into its complete source code inventory.

The rise of cloud computing and the global shift to digital technology means that collaboration between early-stage companies will play an even bigger role for the years to come. More threats lead to more players to tackle them. Cutting through the noise to find the right partners, setting up the right strategy and the right terms for the partnerships have proven to be challenging. Innovation processes and goals must be well-defined and shared across the organization management teams.

During the event, innovation leaders, CISOs and CIOs shared two recommendations to early-stage companies:

  1. To articulate the problem, they are trying to solve clearly and the sooner when approaching potential customers;
  2. To shift from creating a defense structure to a business acumen approach. Large corporations need to see the business logic and the business impact of the solutions they are using, especially when dealing with sensible information.

These recommendations are not specific to cyber and should be applied by all startups targeting businesses. My experience helping innovation teams to design & execute their strategy taught me how true and important these lessons are. Clarify the pain you are addressing, and put it in a business context. It sets the right tone and leads to simpler relationships.

And you, what’s your secret sauce to innovate?      

By Zacharie Lahmi, Lead Analyst AI chez Keyrus Innovation Factory

Israël Science Info