Secret to Israeli cybersecurity innovation at TAU’s Cyber Week

When responding to cyber attacks, humans also deal with difficulties identifying attacker sources.

June 27, 2019 12:28
3 minute read.
Hands are seen on a keyboard in front of a displayed cyber code in this picture illustration taken O

Hands are seen on a keyboard in front of a displayed cyber code in this picture illustration taken October 4, 2018. (photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)


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Cyberattacks remain a serious threat despite a trend of growing awareness in the field, according to Esti Peshin, general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries Cyber Division.

“Cybercrime is growing,” she said on Wednesday at Tel Aviv University’s 9th annual Cyber Week, centered around industry experts’ understanding of innovating and adapting to security challenges. “Cyberattacks on critical infrastructures are growing.”

Peshin mentioned that cybercrime in recent years has taken many forms, including influences on human behavior.

“Cyber attackers are trying to cause us to do things that we initially did not intend to do,” she said in reference to disinformation campaigns.

When responding to cyberattacks, humans also deal with difficulties identifying attacker sources. Peshin said that without locating the attacker, there is no way to retaliate – and “if we cannot retaliate, there is no deterrence.”

Establishing cyber dominance is key, according to Peshin, who said that the current responses to attacks tend to mitigate damage rather than fully prevent it. In her view, securing the web means establishing “full authentication” for users so that people would not be able to falsify their identities online.

“The web is a very dangerous place,” she said. “Your children, your grandchildren are utilizing the web, and we know for a fact that there is anonymization going on – that there are bad guys that can hide themselves.”

Darren Shou, head of global research labs at Symantec, cited timing in human thinking versus computer thinking, where attack times are more fit for machines but not for humans.

“What about an attack that can take down shipping around the world in under seven minutes?” he asked the audience at a panel discussion titled “The Formula for Cyber Innovation,” moderated by Dr. Yaniv Harel of Tel Aviv University.

Shou said machine speed would continue to increase while humans would continue to operate on their respective scales.

Shou advocated for a cross-disciplinary approach to machine learning and artificial intelligence in the security domain, which would pull knowledge from a variety of fields in order to figure out how to incorporate it into society.

“Is it only going to be in technology?” he asked. “No. Is it going to have to involve sociology? Yes. Psychology, behavioral economists, graphic designers, even fields and disciplines that we’re not so familiar with or haven’t even invented yet.”

MATT SWANN, chief security architect for Microsoft’s OneDrive and SharePoint, emphasized human elements in security work spaces. “I want to hire humans who are creative, who are hungry, who will drive with that sense of accountability to win any engagement they find themselves in,” he said.

Swann said he equips his teams of employees with necessary skills by putting them through attack simulations. Using Microsoft’s One Hunt exercises, employees can gain familiarity with the tools that are needed to stop real-life attacks.

Herel said that “thinking out of the box” is a necessary tool for innovation, and that it’s important for cyber strategists to think in this way.
“If you drive in Israel, you can get an idea of what is ‘out-of-the-box thinking’ in driving,” he said. “When the lane is stuck, let’s find the other one. When the door is closed, let’s come from the window.”

Herel also discussed collaboration as a tool Israeli companies can use to boost their innovation, particularly due to the proximity of many of the security companies’ offices.

“If you are familiar with the geography of Israel, it will not take you more than two hours to reach from one company to the other,” he said. “This is the potential for collaboration and for working together in this hub.”

Yoav Lebens, a business developer at application security company Checkmarx, was impressed with the vast international growth he’s seen in the digital security field.

“Something like this 20 years ago would have been niche,” he said, looking around the conference space. “Cybersecurity is now probably the biggest growing sector within hi-tech globally, and certainly Tel Aviv is emblematic of that.”

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