Israel's Competitive Advantages in Homeland and Cyber Security

Israel has a unique and extensive experience in countering traditional terrorism and in recent years, combating the threat of cyber-terror


Leading personalities in Israel's Homeland Security and Cyber Security industry discuss the unique competitive advantages that the country's firms offer to clients in the global battle against terror and crime both in the real and virtual worlds.

The War is Moving More and More to the Virtual World Avi Shavit observes that in the recent years, the arena of terror attacks has been moving from the real world to the virtual world. Mr. Shavit, Chief Consultant on Homeland and Cyber Security to the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, stresses that attacks in the virtual world are no less real and no less potentially devastating.
He said, "The need to protect computer networks against the damage and destruction that could be done to a government, the military, banks and financial systems is becoming increasingly clear. Cyber attacks are very attractive for terrorists because of the anonymity and distance kept from the targets and the ease in which such attacks can potentially be carried out. We hear stories of teenagers causing havoc by hacking into banks and intelligence agency sites." Mr. Shavit continued, "More recently we have seen all the publicity around the flame virus malware and before that the alleged Stuxnet worm attack on the Iranian nuclear program, and all this is making people more aware of the potential perils.' Clearly, Mr. Shavit adds, Israel is a major target for such cyber-attacks. He recounts that a Saudi hacker stole several hundred Israeli credit card details earlier this year and observes that it was merely scratching the surface of the damage that could be done. Fortunately, while Israel may be in the front line against attacks, its world renowned high-tech industries are in the front line in the fight to protect IT and communication networks, and always have been, from the first basic anti-virus software through to more sophisticated forms of IT defense. The Israeli government is leading the effort to develop leading edge cyber security defense through the Prime Minister's Office National Cyber Directorate, while the OCS is continually pushing the bounds of cyber-defense further out through its main competitive R&D program, incubators and other programs. One good example is the MAGNET program, which brings together industry and academia. Mr. Shavit said, "At the OCS we have formed a consortium on cyber security which includes Israel's leading cyber security companies. The consortium includes Rafael, Check Point, Elbit Systems, NICE, Verint, Radware, Commtouch, C4, and Secure Islands as well as 30 leading professors from nearly all Israel's major universities." The collaborative effort, in particular the added value of the academic researchers (30 researches in the Cyber consortium) enhances the ability to close the gap between future technological challenges and existing scientific and technology capabilities. The consortium is seeking to find more efficient methods of locating anomalies on the web, and identify sources of attack and targets at a network level. A second MAGNET consortium has been operating for five years on the topic of video surveillance and helping operators better interpret the vast amount of information they are receiving. "The consortium includes some of the companies involved in the cyber security consortium (from different departments) such as Verint which leads the project as well as NICE, Rafael and Elbit Systems. The aim is to help guards better understand and reduce the material on the banks of TV they are watching and analyze what is suspicious behavior and what is not suspicious."
Israel is ideally poised to counter both traditional terrorism and the newly emerging trend of cyber terrorism. Israel has stood on the front line of terror attacks against the West and no other country has experienced so much terrorism. At the same time Israel's high-tech capabilities have enabled it to devise innovative and more efficient methods of countering terrorism honed, sharpened and proven during realtime use in Israel.
Israel's range of abilities includes securing sea, land and particularly air transport as well as borders, perimeters and vital installations and infrastructures and smart city systems to make the urban environment as safe as possible.
Mr. Shavit adds, "We have also developed highly sophisticated solutions based on command and control systems to manage emergency events, not only major terrorist attacks but also earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters."
He also cites another emerging area in which Israeli companies are at the forefront, which involves traditional industries. "Low tech traditional industries such as clothing and armored protection are making progress in developing new materials that are more impenetrable and offer better defense against injury to people and damage to property."
Israel's comprehensive solutions cannot entirely prevent terrorist attacks, both in the real and the virtual world, stresses Mr. Shavit, but they can go a long way towards deterring attacks, reducing them, and in the event that such attacks are carried out, minimizing the damage.

Israel Cannot Afford to Lose Once "What makes Israel unique is that because of our geopolitical situation, we cannot afford to lose even once," explains Yaron Tchwella, President Security Group & Executive Vice President NICE Systems. "This makes Israelis very determined. We do not like to lose because we cannot afford to lose. This determination is also reflected in the world of business and technology where we are creative, in the forefront of technology innovation, and focused on the success of our customers."
NICE Systems works in three main areas: providing the technological tools for governments to intercept communications; protecting financial transactions with anti-money laundering and anti-fraud software packages; and providing physical security solutions for public safety.
These solutions help governments and enterprises to anticipate, manage and mitigate security, safety, and operational risks, and make the world a safer place.
The NICE security, intelligence and cyber offering empowers organizations to capture, fuse and make sense out of "big data" generated by multiple sensors and channels. This valuable insight is provided to the right people, at the right time, for taking the right actions. NICE Systems serves over 25,000 organizations in the enterprise and security sectors in more than 150 countries, and customers include over 80 of the Fortune 100 companies including government agencies, transportation systems, critical infrastructure, city centers, banks and enterprises.
Mr. Tchwella said, "In the 21st century it is no simple matter to generate intelligence from communications. Over the past two decades we have seen the fragmentation of communication means. Today, people have so many different ways of communicating – mobile phones, SMS, Skype, email, messaging and much, much more, which makes the lives of security agencies, looking to prevent crime and terrorism, very complicated. However, this also provides additional opportunities for intelligence production than ever before. We provide solutions that enable governments to effectively seize these opportunities." Mr. Tchwella noted that "NICE's analytics suite enables the detection of irregular patterns and understanding of trends, to effectively manage every stage of an event, and even predict and prevent the next one. These analytics solutions are keeping up with the rapid pace of change, and the growing amount of available data – something that governments, all too often bogged down by bureaucracy – struggle to do. But since 9/11, governments worldwide have understood that they must strive to stay ahead of the game." "There is a problematic asymmetry concerning cyber crime and terrorism,' explains Mr. Tchwella. "A single person sitting at home can bring down a bank, steal millions and gain access to sensitive information. The vulnerability is enormous and governments, organizations, and companies cannot afford to be unprotected. We find that banks and enterprises, and especially defense contractors with sensitive information, are eager to invest in the latest security systems because they cannot afford to be the victims of attacks. But governments are not always as well protected as they should be and that can be detrimental to Homeland Security."
Mr. Tchwella says, "With such a vast amount of structured and unstructured data including audio and visual information, effectiveness boils down to the best quality analytics and ability to gain strategic insights from big data. We have to know how to most efficiently analyze this vast amount of data and spot patterns and anomalies. This is where Israeli companies are so strong. We not only have the technology but have the day-to-day operational experience in fighting terrorism. We also see our youth contributing to Israel's creative and innovative high-tech industry as a result of their experience and exposure to leading technologies during their military service. Israel's universities also focus on analytics and provide a robust educational foundation for our industry." He continues, "It amazes me when I travel around the world to see how naïve the security can be in many countries. I recently entered an Asian parliament house and my bags were not checked when I entered the building. That sort of lax attitude is inviting trouble." Looking ahead Mr. Tchwella says that it is difficult to predict how technology is likely to develop. He observes, "10 or 15 years ago we did not anticipate the way computer and mobile communications technology would converge. Clearly the smartphone revolution on the one hand is making the efforts of our clients more challenging and complicated. However, on the other hand, coupled with the advent of ever bigger data and super computers to analyze more vast amounts of material, it also provides greater opportunities in tracking and capturing criminals and terrorists."

Combating Computer Crime and Terror As computer networks become ever more complex, sophisticated and larger, so does the murky world of illegal activity targeting computers and networks and their data. The advent of cloud storage and big data, and the proliferation of mobile devices also make the need for data protection more urgent. The threats encompass not only cyber terror and malware attacks to bring down entire networks, which attract media headlines, but a also a range of more subtle and covert crimes involving fraud, phishing, pharming, reverse engineering, spyware and Trojan horses for spying and much more, as well as old fashioned viruses and worms.
Dr. Yael Villa is CTO IPV (Identity, Protection, Verification) of RSA in Israel, the security division of EMC, which specializes in security, risk and compliance management solutions. She said, "Our background here in Herzliya in Israel began with anti-fraud solutions for credit card theft and on-line banking. But whether you are attempting a smash and grab raid to steal money online or are making longer term attempts to steal state secrets, the methods to detect these are very similar as you use analytics and patterns to look for anomalies."
RSA's Herzliya office started out as the startup Cyota, which developed e-commerce solutions for online credit card and banking fraud, which was acquired by RSA Security in 2005 for $145 million. RSA Security itself was subsequently acquired the following year by EMC for $2.1 billion, and became that company's security division. EMC's RSA security division focuses on: authentication; access control; data loss prevention; encryption, tokenization, and key management; fraud prevention; enterprise governance, risk and monitoring; network security monitoring; security information and event management; and general consulting.
Today RSA's Israel operations form the company's Anti- Fraud Command Center (AFCC), which is committed to the ongoing battle against cybercrime and provides intelligence on the latest fraud trends and global threats. The AFCC is staffed with more than 150 analysts and researchers that work 24/7 to address phishing, pharming and Trojan attacks. In total, the AFCC has shut down over 500,000 online attacks worldwide. RSA Israel is led by Michal Blumenstyk-Braverman, General Manager of Global Solutions and RSA Israel GM RSA, The Security Division of EMC. Its products stop $3 billion of fraud threats each year, authenticate 300 million online banking and e-commerce users and shut down 20,000 phishing and Trojan attacks each month, as well as providing cyber intelligence to hundreds of corporations and organizations.
Dr. Villa herself has an academic background in artificial intelligence, data mining and machine learning. Joining RSA from Tel Aviv University in 2007, her role spans responsibility for both the technological leadership of RSA's predictive analytics products as well as customer delivery.
She said, "In Israel we are very strong on analytics and this has seen the country's computer security industry in the forefront of the fight to make computers safe from the first anti-virus software and the network security software and firewall solutions of Check Point."
Dr. Villa added, "Of course in Israel we also have realtime experience in fighting all types of terror. While computer network crimes are a global phenomenon, Israel is a prime target for all types of terror including cyber terror so it is a top priority in Israel to find solutions for this."
RSA's presence in Israel is part of a broader and growing presence by EMC in the country, which includes a recently opened Center of Excellence in Beer Sheva, which is led by Dr. Orna Berry, Corporate Vice President and General Manager for Israel COE as well as the major acquisition of Israeli flash storage company XtremIO earlier this year, and the more modest acquisition last year of ZettaPoint, which develops performance based storage tiering solutions for databases. EMC's focus on ever larger cloud data storage and big data makes the need for more effective security all the more urgent.
Dr. Villa explained, "In Israel we have a lot of cross pollination with leading edge research in cloud data security with the Technion in Haifa, Ben Gurion University in the Negev and other universities. At RSA we take a multilayered approach including monitoring, research and intelligence, and we develop risk based authentication that leverages machine learning. We are also putting biometrics, another Israeli strength, into our products."
RSA's RecoverPoint data protection solution is a heterogeneous remote disaster recovery or local CDP solution with attributes like WAN efficiency and point in time recovery for cloud environments. Flash BU develops solutions for high performance applications leveraging flash for data acceleration, and GreenPlum offers a Big Data Unified Analytics platform, which in Israel focuses on data protection solutions.
In addition to securing bigger and bigger data, Dr. Villa sees the biggest cyber security challenge in the coming years as mobile protection. She said, "Laptops and especially smartphones and tablets are especially vulnerable at the moment and yet they are becoming an integral part of company and organizational networks. So we must find better solutions for these."
"But of course," she concludes, "Cyber terrorists and criminals are becoming more sophisticated all the time. The challenge through technology that we develop here at RSA and elsewhere in Israel is to be one step ahead of new threats rather than one step behind."

Smarter Fencing Fencing to mark and protect borders and perimeters of sensitive installations and critical sites are becoming more and more sophisticated. "15 or 20 years ago it was just enough to put up fencing," recalls Eyal Kochav Palant, VP Business Development of EL-FAR Electronics Systems 2000, which develops, manufactures and markets comprehensive perimeter security systems and integrated solutions worldwide. "But today a fence by itself is simply not enough to stop people. Companies like ours have developed a range of technologies to create smarter fences."
EL-FAR's smart fences include vibration sensors and electronic controllers that can be installed onto existing infrastructures providing the most comprehensive intrusion detection system available and detection resolution within 10 meters of a fence and often as close as 3 meters.
"It is impossible to effectively patrol kilometers of fencing," observes Mr. Kochav Palant. "The latest systems linked to command and control centers create a situation where limited human resources can focus on the few points that the detection system indicates could be vulnerable." More and more sophisticated algorithms within the sensors make it more effective in spotting anomalies. For example, at airport perimeter fences, a threat may not involve a breach of the fence itself, but simply somebody loitering near the fence, perhaps with a weapon to bring down a plane. Sensors will indicate if a person or vehicle remains stationery near the fence.
Mr. Kochav Palant estimates that there are 30 major companies worldwide providing electronic smart fence systems with eight of them in Israel. He said, "In Israel we have had to confront the daily reality of infiltrations and terror attacks so that means our systems are tested in real-time. We also have a global reputation for hightech and innovation."
Israeli companies are also flexible in adapting to different conditions worldwide. "This includes different terrain, climates, fence styles and requirements. For example for protecting the homes of the wealthy we need aesthetic equipment that can be disguised as parts of decorative walls or external lighting systems."
He adds, "In Western Europe, there is sensitivity in putting up borders between countries. For such situations we have developed an underground seismic detection system, which cannot be seen and is a kind of virtual border or fence."
This leading edge system is highly reliable due to its sophisticated algorithms that provide it with the unique ability to filter nuisance alarms on several processing levels. The system creates an invisible buffer zone around the protected perimeter, allowing for real time detection of any hostile activities. The system can also be used in conjunction with conventional fencing acting as a kind of unseen trip wire for those approaching the fence. The system identifies any movement both overhead, on the ground and beneath the surface including tunneling.
"This and all our systems are very efficient in filtering out false alarms. A system that cries wolf all the time is very counterproductive. It erodes the alertness of guards and staff and plays into the hands of potential intruders who will often set off false alarms time and again to lull security staff into a false sense of security. Data fusion, which we have incorporated into our systems, by combining radar, IR, microwave, ultrasonic, seismic sensors and other technologies, is especially effective in reducing false alarms."
Israeli companies like EL-FAR are leaders in intelligent protection. This can involve systems that not only protect a site or border but also build up a data bank of relevant information about patterns and anomalies, to as previously mentioned, identify vulnerable points, reduce false alarms and erosion of alertness.
Mr. Kochav Palant said, "In recent years our systems have added more elements that actively identify potential intruders. We want to initiate more, be more active in identifying problems before they arise, rather than being passive. People who are defending something are always at a disadvantage compared with those who are attacking and can choose their time, place and method. So we want a situation where security staff, rather than reading the last picture, can predict what the next picture might be."
Among these elements is a kind of miniature helicopter or tiny unmanned hovering vehicle, which can be put up at a moment's notice to add aerial surveillance during emergencies or sensitive times and events. EL-FAR has also developed a wide range of special software and accessories and systems as well as water monitoring sensors.
He said, "Although these systems are very sophisticated, they are very user friendly and easy to maintain.
If they were complicated to operate or would frequently breakdown then infiltrators would soon know and take advantage of this. This simplicity and reliability also keeps costs down as well as manpower levels."
EL-FAR operates in 28 countries together with local partners and offers 150 types of infrastructure to protect 100 different types of installation and site. "We are learning new things and improving our systems all the time. But then so are the people trying to defeat our systems."

A Safe City is a Smart City Building a safe city is not always a top priority with mayors and government ministers because it requires major investment and the results are not seen for some years, explains Mer Group CEO Marian Cohen.
"This is a shortsighted approach," insists Mr. Cohen. "Mayors must ask themselves how do my citizens feel and are they prepared to go out after dark? The investment in developing a safe city is a smart step since in the medium to long-term, residents will feel much more secure in their city. The city will flourish due to being attractive to new residents, visitors and investors."
Safe city systems are smart cities since they also provide communications platforms for smart city systems, which extend to the environment, transportation, governance and much more. The safe city systems themselves comprise command, control and communication centers (C4) linked to a network of surveillance cameras and sensors throughout the city. This provides optimal coordination of emergency services – fire, medical, police and other security forces – to cope with crime, terror, accidents and natural disasters – as well as to detect and deter terror and crime. The C4 centers are able to collect, process, store, display, analyze and react to data obtained from the network as well as information from the public and emergency services.
Mr. Cohen said, "In each modern major city there are at least a dozen and sometimes even more major forces responsible for public order and coordination during an emergency situation as a must. In addition monitoring and surveillance systems reduce the risk of crime and terror by their very existence, acting as a deterrent."
Mer Group's homeland security division - Mer Security and Communications Systems - has been planning, designing and implementing smart city systems since the 1990s. Mr. Cohen recounts, "Even before 9/11 once cities woke up to the threat of global terror, our company had installed a very successful safe city system in Jerusalem's Old City. It was part of the Israeli Government measures to ensure the safety of Pope John Paul II when he made his millennium visit to Israel in 2000."
Mr. Cohen recalled "After installation, the local population in the Arab quarters was very hostile to the system due to political reasons. Youngsters would try and smash surveillance cameras, which they thought were spying on them politically. But then a funny thing happened. Crime fell dramatically and we even had shopkeepers and homeowners requesting that we add cameras to protect their property."
Today all of Jerusalem has a smart city system as do most Israeli cities. "Israel is one large beta-site for safe city systems," observes Mr. Cohen. "Our successful implementation of Jerusalem's safe city system was a springboard for winning major tenders abroad."
Israel is unique in its ability to offer safe city systems because of its own built in awareness of terrorism. At the same time it is a global hightech power, close to a lot of leading edge security technology developed by Israel's military backed up by first-rate R&D in the country's universities. Mr. Cohen stresses that safe city systems are often more sophisticated and complex versions of systems to protect borders and installations, transport systems and airports, prisons, campuses, utilities, military bases and much more.
He said, "Israeli companies like ours also specialize in events, although often the systems we set up create a legacy for future generations. Thus the Jerusalem safe city system set up for the visit of the Pope serves the city till today. Similarly we were called upon by the Athens municipality to set up a safe city for the 2004 Olympics and that system too remains in place today working to protect the citizens of Athens and visitors to the city." Mer has also implemented a safe city system for Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas in 2009 when US President Barack Obama famously shook hands with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Mr. Cohen emphasizes that the most important thing that Israeli companies have to offer is a concept.
"Our job is to build up that concept and then work as an integrator combining the technologies and software, equipment, knowhow and expertise. In integrating all these components we work mainly with Israeli manufacturers and consultants with proven track records."
Mer Group is currently implementing safe city systems around the world including in Buenos Aires.
Mr. Cohen concludes, "Ultimately we must ensure that a solution has to be built to work. I've heard of cities that have great systems but the staff is not trained properly to operate it. This is another advantage we have here in Israel. Our real-time experiences in fighting terror have shown us what does and what doesn't work."