Anyone following cyber news in Israel over the last year will be in no doubt that the industry has gone through a period of explosive growth, but Cybertech 2016 held this week in Tel Aviv, confirms it.

Nearly 11,000 people attended the opening day of the exhibition yesterday, which attracted 250 cyber companies, and 100 startups, compared to 8,700 visitors, and just 170 companies and startups in attendance at last year’s event. The event was one of the largest exhibitions of cyber-related technologies in the world.

While multiple television crews followed government leaders around the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center, the international significance of the event was underlined by the presence of delegates from more than 50 countries.

“We’ve had a spectacular growth of investments, startup companies. … It’s our challenge to sustain this growth,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told attendees in his opening remarks, saying that the world recognizes how large a portion of cybersecurity technology has originated in Israel over the past 25 years.

Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses Cybertech 2016. Photo by Gilad Kavalerchik
Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses Cybertech 2016. Photo by Gilad Kavalerchik

A comprehensive report presented at the international conference by the IVC Research Center revealed that 430 cybersecurity companies are currently operating in Israel, and new ones are being launched at an accelerating pace.

Much of this action could be seen at the Startup Pavilion, hosting some 100 new companies offering innovative solutions on cyber-related issues in sectors including finance, defense, transportation, telecommunications, utilities, health and government.

Delegates and innovators were not concerned about the number of small companies crowding into the cybersecurity space.

“It’s logical that not all of the startups will succeed but there are a lot of different ideas and smart ideas in different directions,” Kfir Damari, director of Cyber Business Development at Netline, tells ISRAEL21c.

“There are a lot of solutions that you can’t find anywhere else. For example, Vaulto is the first company in the world that is offering breach-detection solutions for mobile phones.”

What counts most is that enterprising spirit, adds Dan Dinnar, CEO of HexaTier. “A lot of these companies eventually will be merged together or combined into a solution. But I think it’s great that we have people with enough initiative to find something and believe in it and not just follow what everyone thinks,” he says.

“We want to have the out-of-box technology and put the security in place that will really protect and keep us safe,” he adds.

The conference was abuzz with impromptu business meetings. Photo by Viva Sarah Press
The conference was abuzz with impromptu business meetings. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Cyber attack on Israel’s electricity supply

A dramatic announcement at the closing plenary of the first day of the Cybertech conference hammered home the need for effective cyber solutions.

“Israel is currently experiencing one of the most severe cyber-attacks on the Israeli Electricity Authority,” announced Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz.

“We discovered it yesterday; fortunately, the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources and the Israel National Cyber Bureau are already handling it. The virus was already identified and the right software was already prepared to neutralize it. We had to paralyze many of the computers of the Israeli electricity authorities. We are handling the situation and I hope that soon, this very serious event will be over,” he told an audience of multinational corporations, startups, major Israeli companies, investors and entrepreneurs. “We need cyber-tech to prevent such attacks.”

While people at home may have been surprised by Steinitz’s announcement, participants in the two-day event expect such cyber-attacks to happen.

“Every aspect of our lives is going to be influenced by cyber. So, all the industries are here to see what can be done,” Roni Zehavi, CEO of the CyberSpark Industry Initiative, a coordinating body for joint cyber industry activities with government agencies, the IDF, the public and academia, tells ISRAEL21c.  “It’s [about maintaining] equilibrium between comfort of life and being exposed.”

A safer world

In a testament to the robust cyber industry in Israel, Pavilion 2 of the Tel Aviv Exhibition Center was filled with chatter as conference delegates held impromptu meetings at booths set up by leading companies, government trade centers, and startups.

“Israel’s positioning is at the top of cybersecurity in the world. Security is in our blood, both physical and now [through] technology. It’s good that we’re using it in the right areas and trying to make the world a little bit of a safer place,” Dinnar, CEO of HexaTier, tells ISRAEL21c.

The COMSEC Group’s booth offered “medicine” from “Dr. Cyber.” Photo by Viva Sarah Press
The COMSEC Group’s booth offered “medicine” from “Dr. Cyber.” Photo by Viva Sarah Press

Victor Yeo, deputy general manager of ST Electronics in Singapore and a returning participant to the Tel Aviv event, tells ISRAEL21c: “Cybertech brings everyone together to get a sense of some of the key players. A lot of the new ideas are coming from Israel. I think they have a new approach to things and ingenuity. There are a lot of similarities among the startups but there are also some gems amongst the group that have key differences and approaches. I’m looking around and trying to find a gem or a rough diamond.”

Japan and the Olympics

One of the largest foreign delegations at Cybertech 2016 was from Japan.

“Japan knows that it needs help in security and Israel can help them with cyber [for] enterprise security, critical infrastructure, IoT, etc. Israel has already created a perception that it’s one of the leaders in cyber and there are a lot of opportunities,” Todd Walzer, CEO and founding partner of iLand6 and a pioneer in business development for Israel high-tech in Japan, tells ISRAEL21c.

“The Olympic Games are coming up in 2020, and the Japanese have already identified cyber as the most significant threat. They are coming over and over again to meet Israeli companies,” says CyberSpark’s Zehavi. “The Japanese – and also Chinese and Singaporeans — are here firstly to look for practical solutions and to look for cooperation in academy and industry.”

Japan sent a large delegation to Cybertech 2016. Photo by Viva Sarah Press
Japan sent a large delegation to Cybertech 2016. Photo by Viva Sarah Press

The IVC report on the Israeli cyber industry shows that since 2011, more than 230 local and foreign investors invested in more than 165 Israeli cyber-technology startups.

The report also shows that nearly 40 multinational corporations have R&D centers in Israel today, compared to only 13 in the mid-1990s.

“EMC operates in Israel via five sites that are active in various information technology areas and employ more than a thousand people. This activity is based on organic growth and acquisitions of about 10 Israeli companies, alongside other investments,” said Yaniv Harel, general manager of the Cyber Solutions Group at EMC.

“EMC perceives Israel as a strategic innovation hub and will continue to invest and to develop in the cyber field as well as in its other expertise areas.”

Gadi Tirosh, managing partner at Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), said that as the ferocity, scope and sophistication of cyber-attacks continue to grow, “so must our capacity to defend our critical assets.”

“As part of our investment process, we review about 90 percent of the Israeli cyber startups, and we are very excited by the level of creativity, knowhow and innovation that we are seeing,” Tirosh said. “The talent here is world-class and Israeli cybersecurity will continue to be a big part of the solution to our global cyber-security challenges.”

Companies and investors big and small took part in Cybertech 2016. Photo by Viva Sarah Press
Companies and investors big and small took part in Cybertech 2016. Photo by Viva Sarah Press