Last month, I attended the CyberTech 2016 conference in Tel Aviv along with a delegation of other U.S.-based bloggers and journalists, courtesy of the America–Israel Friendship League and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The conference is a showcase for about 100 established Israeli information security related firms, in addition to an equal number of startups. Now in its third year, the organizers stated that there were nearly 11,000 people in attendance; albeit it didn’t seem that there were really that many people there.
The majority of the attendees and firms represented were Israeli based, but there was a strong international attendance also. Marina Kaljurand, the Estonian Minister for Foreign Affairs gave one of the keynotes, and there was also a large delegation from Japan, with JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) having a large booth on the expo floor.
Attesting to the importance of information security, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave one of the keynotes. To my knowledge, this is the first time a current head of state has given a keynote at an information security conference.
In his keynote, Netanyahu emphasized the need to establish international standards that will increase cybersecurity effectiveness. He keenly noted that “there’s a critical need for like-minded governments to have serious discussions about cooperation in the broader international realm.” He felt that once that is done, it will then be easier for countries to establish international standards that will increase cybersecurity.
CyberTech is similar to other large information security conferences. I did find one significant difference in the people in the booths on the expo floor were generally much more technical. I spoke to numerous engineers who were able to give highly technical overviews of their products and the information security challenges they were attempting to mitigate.
All of the presentations were in English, and everyone in the vendor booths spoke English. The Israelis have taken a huge, and I mean massive, liking to the word cyber. Not only is it in the conference name, but every Israeli speaker used it in their presentations. Israelis seem to use it as a term for anything computer/network/information/data security related.
Ron Moritz is a founding partner of TrueBit CyberPartners and attended CyberTech. He noted that if you look at the conference and Israel’s other major cyber security event, Tel Aviv University’s CyberWeek as benchmarks, what is notable is the diversity of attendees. Both events draw individuals, companies and government officials from a diverse group of countries. Although less notable this year, military men and women in uniform from across the globe were seen at past CyberTech conferences. Information security in Israel is truly representative of Israel’s historic role as a geographic trade cross-roads.
Moritz also observed that not only are investment dollars that fuel the industry growth flowing in freely from a variety of nations, but Israeli cyber security companies are able to sell solutions into many more countries than traditional western information security firms. This puts Israel at the economic epicenter of information security and has allowed the country to emerge as a serious and credible leader in the information security space.
Marty Leidner is the CISO (chief information security officer) at The Rockefeller University in New York City. He noted that he thought the conference was an excellent one. He said that it was not so much any one individual company or presenter that impressed him, but rather the overall impressive lineup of multiple distinguished speakers from all over the world. This wide spectrum of information security personalities ranged from his fellow CISOs, to white hat hackers.
While at the conference, Leidner saw someone demonstrate how it was possible to compromise a fully patched Android phone in under 30 seconds. This demonstration reminded him to never lend your phone to someone you don’t trust; even for one call!
Chenxi Wang wrote a superb blog piece on why firms should showcase technology simply by celebrating the ideas and ingenuity that went into the creation of their products and solutions and not fill their conference booths with eye-candy. Wang would be pleased that there was not a single booth babe at the conference.
With a much more technical focus, the booths were not only absent of booth babes but also of marketing teams aggressively attempting to scan your badge for t-shirt or squeeze ball giveaways. CyberTech is a venue for getting business done, not a place for free beer or vendor parties. It is also a dry-run for tweaking presentations ahead of the biggest cyber security show, the RSA Security Conference.
My next piece will be about some of the more interesting firms I met with at the conference.
I will follow up with a final piece about how Israel has become one of the world’s most important incubators for information security software and hardware solutions.
This article is a slightly modified version from the original at CSO Online.