Israeli innovation is leading cybersecurity to unreached possibilities

Meet Armis Security, the company breaking ground in the realm of security for Israelis, from homes to hospitals.

 ARMIS: BRINGING hackers out of the shadows. (photo credit: PXFUEL)
ARMIS: BRINGING hackers out of the shadows.
(photo credit: PXFUEL)

Take a second to visualize the entirety of your home. For this exercise you can imagine it clean.

Now, within that visualization, picture all of the devices you have situated throughout your residence.

They could be personal computers, televisions, smartphones, Alexa or Google Home devices, tablets, automobile electronic control units (ECUs) or even alarm or remote door control systems. The list could literally go on and on.

How many devices do you have? Which of them are connected to the internet? What safety protocols do you have in place to make sure your devices aren’t being affected by malicious software?

Now, considering you probably had to sift through your home and list out all of your devices, as opposed to being able to do so off-hand, imagine what the situation would be for a Fortune 500 company or a hospital with thousands of systems running simultaneously.

 ARMIS CO-FOUNDER and CTO Nadir Izrael.  (credit: ELAD MALKA) ARMIS CO-FOUNDER and CTO Nadir Izrael. (credit: ELAD MALKA)

What would happen to these companies if they were infected with malicious software? How can they identify the problem, and once identified, what can they do to reconcile the situation?

Enter Armis Security.

“The biggest problem that organizations have, that Armis basically solves, is that they have no idea how many devices they have,” said Armis cofounder and CTO Nadir Izrael. “They have no idea what they should know about them, and they have no idea what they are doing wrong or how to fix it.”

While this issue seems both incredibly broad as well as trivial for organizations to have, the reality is if you are looking at large or even medium-scale multinational organization, it has IT devices, it has operational technology such as in factories or hospitals, it has cloud assets, it has virtual machines, pretty much anything and everything you can imagine under the sun – and all of these systems are vulnerable to malicious attacks.

“They just have no idea. It’s so widespread, there is so much of a lack of a perimeter or any kind of order to it that organizations just don’t know what they have,” Izrael explained.

Many are unable to account for how many devices of a certain type they have, and lumping other companies into consideration, it is hard for them to even catalog what they have, let alone the risks and security threats that exist from them.

In order to account for this gap, or oversight if you will, Armis began surveying its customers as well as different security and IT organizations, six years ago to learn more about the potential threats faced by large companies in today’s digital age as it began to build out their defenses – which it now terms as the “Armis Solution.”

“These problems were prevalent even six years ago,” Izrael said. “There was this notion of ‘the world used to be simple.’ We used to have just laptops and servers, and now we have everything.

“Every type of connected device that you can imagine.”

The first challenge Armis addressed was an ability to map out these devices – with a complete real-time continuous image – for large organizations, so that they have some idea of what they possess. The other challenge was how to secure all of these devices.

These two simple goals became, what today, encompasses the Armis mission, “how to come in and catalog every single asset and device you have, no matter what it is, provide that Google map, if you will, of how an organization looks like, and then on top of that, add the risk and security information needed to be able to counter threats,” Izrael explained.

There are plenty of other solutions that offer to solve this, however, the distinction in Armis’ approach lies within its core-engineering background. Many of the aforementioned solutions provide only partial value, or none at all.

Izrael, who came from a background within Google’s auto-complete system, notes that Armis’ solution comes from a data-backed approach.

“If you have enough data about the world, you can pretty much do anything,” he said. “In our case, what we set out to do is how can you protect devices and assets that you can’t control,” or put an antivirus on, such as smartphones, door systems, etc.

 CYBERDEFENSE SECURITY solutions act as a global guard against malicious software. (credit: PXFUEL) CYBERDEFENSE SECURITY solutions act as a global guard against malicious software. (credit: PXFUEL)

HOW CAN you protect something that you can’t touch? Or how do you detect that it is in some way compromised?

Armis’ answer was, in a sense, if they could see enough examples of devices in the real world, then they could eventually build a model for how they behave. Today, Armis tracks over a billion devices worldwide, essentially teaching Armis what the day in a device looks like.

“That’s really the core technology of what Armis has built, and it’s leveraged extensively to both understand and fingerprint what are all of the devices out there, as well as what are the different threats that exist out there, or anomalous activities Armis should catalog,” Izrael said.

While many software companies out there essentially use their knowledge to attack, or provide tools for attacking certain devices, Armis is very much a defense-oriented platform.

“It operates more like a collective intelligence,” Izrael said.

More or less, if some sort of malevolent event happens to one of Armis’ clients worldwide, the system immediately learns from it, gets smarter from it and defense protocols for repeat events would essentially be replicated across all organizations. Meaning, the more attackers who try to maliciously harm or intrude devices on the network, the stronger Armis’ system eventually becomes – ready, with guns blazing, for the next time an attacker tries its hand within the same arena.

Today, over 35 of the Fortune 100s are clients of Armis, many with incredibly large environments that face attack on a daily basis. So, the idea is that the Armis system is getting smarter and smarter day by day, leveraging these data sets to protect companies around the world.

“In a sense, Armis is able to paint the picture of how things are spreading, as well as being able to mitigate threats,” Izrael said.

Aside from its typical realm of customers, real world examples of the chaos that could strike organizations showed its true face within the example of a number of Israel hospitals – such as in the case of Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera – which were recently targeted by cyber attacks within the last month.

Hillel Yaffe Medical had to resort to using alternate systems while treating patients, and had even been writing patients’ information down by hand, forced to divert some of them to Laniado Medical Center in Netanya in light of the cyberattack – essentially putting the hospital into the technological stone age.

HOSPITALS ARE especially vulnerable to these types of attacks, Izrael explained, and given the latest developments, Armis had decided to lend their capabilities to any hospital in Israel, free of charge, to ensure such an event doesn’t happen again.

“The cybersecurity business is a business, but that doesn’t mean we are not human beings, and ultimately Israelis at heart,” Izrael said. “That means we can’t be oblivious to different challenges our country faces.”

In addition to hospitals, Armis is also forwarding its technologies to industries it believes to be at significant risk or industries that it believes it could help out in this way across the country – especially ones that are jolted into this sort of situation, as in the case with the hospitals but additionally entering into research collaboration with universities.

However, Armis is not only forwarding its technologies to help Israeli institutions in need, but also hopes to be at the forefront of growing the Israeli tech sector – shifting out of the normal realm of start-up and sell-off.

“What we are building is very ambitious, ultimately what we are trying to do is to build a massive company, something that is huge, and solves a big world problem,” Izrael said.

Building something ambitious is something that’s both growing in popularity and ultimately defines Armis, in a sense. Typically the Israeli hi-tech ecosystem of the past has built companies in Israel defined start-ups, which are eventually sold off or shifted into new directions under new management.

Armis instead hopes to shift the notion toward Israel becoming a “scale-up nation.”

“Armis from the get-go was built to be a platform, and it wasn’t built to solve a particular feature. It was built as a platform to protect all devices all over the world,” Izrael said. “It’s a very ambitious task, considering there are all types of companies around the world solving different subsets of that problem.

“We just looked at it holistically and said we were going to solve all of it.”

“In doing so, we also thought like a scaled-out version of a company, meaning what did Armis look like when it was a few people way back six years ago, all the way to being 450 people today?,” he added. “Into the future, how will Armis look when it is 4,000 people and multinational? Do we need to buy potential smaller companies to otherwise enhance our capabilities? Basically thinking like a large company,” as opposed to waiting for the first large offer or buy-out opportunity.

“That’s something very new to the Israeli market,” Izrael continued. “We are not used to thinking in those terms.”

Armis is unique in what it is building, it is not only growing fast but it is also a company that is growing along the path of being an “ultimate go-to” solution for everything cybersecurity, which is something that differentiates it from the rest of the pack. The way it leverages big-data solutions like Google, or the way it thinks of the world like Apple would, is a way of thinking that seems far-fetched but differentiates it nonetheless.

“Ultimately Armis is one of the most successful companies that Israel as a country hatched out, and we plan to grow that way for years to come,” Izrael said. “It’s as much of a statement toward the future and the high bar we set for ourselves for success, as it is for the appreciation of what has happened so far.”

Israel shouldn’t be ashamed to build the Apples and the Googles of the world, Izrael concluded, it has both the talent and power to do so, and Armis believes this is the direction the Israeli economy is headed.

“That we are aspiring to be a Google or an Apple in the world of cybersecurity, that defines us as a company,” Izrael said.

As such, he asserted, Israel would do well to keep its stars in-house, and scale them up.

This article was written in cooperation with Armis.