COVID made cyber threats more dangerous - Gil Shwed

“Before COVID, we ran our life 50/50 between the physical and cyber worlds,” he said. “During the pandemic, it became 90/10. Now it is about 80/20.”

COVID made cyber threats more dangerous - Gil Shwed

Coronavirus made cyber threats more important and more dangerous, according to Check Point CEO Gil Shwed.

Speaking Tuesday at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference, Shwed said the virus made people even more dependent on the Internet.

“Before COVID, we ran our life 50/50 between the physical and cyber worlds,” he said. “During the pandemic, it became 90/10. Now it is about 80/20.”

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Because nearly everything that people started to consume had to go online, companies moved their infrastructure to the cloud, which is susceptible to cyberattacks, he said.

Additionally, attackers had plenty of time to be at home and design software to attack that infrastructure.

“I have spoken about fifth-generation attacks,” Shwed said. “I have been speaking about this for the last three or four years. But since the beginning of 2021, it has become something that is no longer rare... attackers have become more sophisticated.”

Moreover, he said that “our vulnerability landscape” became much larger.

“Think about a bank. Even if the door was locked physically, people only had to work there. Now they can work from home. People in a factory – it was a closed network. Now the outside world can attack it, as the people are maintaining it from home, and the vendors are maintaining it from home,” Shwed said. “The challenge we have to solve right now is much bigger than it was two years ago; the challenge two years ago was big enough.”

And it is becoming personal.

“Threats to our national security or our water supply or energy supply in many cases are very similar to the threats to our privacy,” Shwed said.

Shirona Partem, the vice president of corporate development and strategy at Kape Technologies, expressed similar sentiments. Her company focuses on helping people guard their personal information.

During an interview at the conference, she suggested that she had obtained all of their names and the websites they visited in the last day and brought that information with her.

“I don’t really have that information,” she quickly admitted, “but at this time around thousands of companies around the world have exactly that information. At Kape today, we have over six million paid customers globally, mainly in the US and Europe, for whom we help manage their privacy, their digital identity, what is shared online and what is not, and protect their digital security.”

She said that most of what attackers are looking for is personal information, such as an individual’s name, background, bank account details, but also where you’ve been yesterday and what you are interested in.

“This information is used by companies, and also by more dubious entities, to target you,” Partem said.

A PERSON’S COMPUTER is attacked every 39 seconds, she said. Moreover, while individuals surf around 50 sites a day, on average 1,000 other websites that they did not know existed also have all of their information.

“This is a problem on a couple of levels. First of all, the most obvious one is, of course, identity theft. And the ability to take what is yours and pretend to be you and take money on your behalf, etc. That’s essentially becoming more and more real because our identity is online,” she said. “The second one is really in terms of knowing things about you that you don’t want them to know.”

She recalled the situation a couple of years ago when Target started advertising baby products to a 16-year-old girl whom it was able to determine was pregnant but whose parents did not yet know.

“We don’t know what other companies are doing with this data, but they are able to influence our decisions, and that’s what we call micro-nudging. So once you know things about people, you can nudge them into behavior,” Partem explained.

But a third aspect, which she said is the “scariest,” is that with enough data companies can predict what people feel and the actions they will take in those situations.

“They know that when you are sad, together with eating ice cream, you also shop more, so maybe I’ll make you sad,” she said. “And there are other behaviors like that which I think are becoming very dangerous.

“Kape will help people manage that, and we are now developing more and more ways for you to decide who will know and what they will know about you,” she concluded.

For Israel, the cyber industry was also large and important. But COVID made it grow more.

Armis Security, which also participated in the cyber discussion at the conference, said it is now protecting more than a billion devices around the world.

Rubi Aronashvili, the CEO of CYE, which works to meet the full spectrum of a company’s cybersecurity needs, also said it is “amazing to see how the ecosystem has evolved” to become a multibillion dollar ecosystem.

Israel is transitioning from Start-Up Nation to scale-up nation, especially in the cyber arena, said Armis’s co-founder and CEO, Yevgeny Dibrov. He said that six or seven years ago, the dream was “really for an exit to one of the largest vendors around. Now, the dream is basically to take the company public, to build a real huge business platform, not a feature or a product.

“And this is really exciting in what we are seeing right now.”

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