Why cyber security was on the World Economic Forum agenda

What lessons can be drawn from the Israeli cyber security industry?

In January Benjamin Netanyahu led discussions at the World Economic Forum at Davos and the subject was cyber security.The Israeli prime minister presented the Israeli model for development of this critical cyber capability.

It is incredible when we think that this country with population of 8 million is punching way above its weight (compare it to Hong Kong which has about the equivalent in population).

Netanyahu highlighted how this was a partnership between government defence, academia and enterprises.

He said: “Cyber has substantially changed basic elements of our lives both as individuals and nations… In the new age, it is cyber defense that makes the future possible and constitutes a precondition for growth and security.”

A lightweight in a heavyweight contest

Clearly this is not just talk; to support his assertion there is a $3.5 billion cyber security industry in Israel that is taking a growing leadership position.

Taking the momentum at Davos, Israel also hosted the annual CyberTech international Conference.In attendance over two days were some 1000 participants from all Israeli government agencies, industry and academic groups.

An enviable position to have such a forum and I’m not sure that this level of cooperation is seen elsewhere.Maintaining this competitive advantage is clearly high on the Israeli national agenda.

But don’t give away all the secret stuff

While exports are high on the agenda, there is also the understanding that there is an advantage — what venture capitalists call ‘secret sauce’ — that you never want to give away.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has drafted a set of guidelines to maintain a level of control over certain cyber security exports.Overarching theme is that cyber systems to penetrate and attack are in scope.

Specifically in scope will be “any software developed or adapted for preventing discovery by monitoring tools or in such a way that allows it to overcome the protective systems of a computer or device connected to the Internet”

Read more: Hack attack on a hospital IT system highlights the risk of still running Windows XP

It also goes on to include:“systems, equipment and accessories that are adapted so as to deceive users, operating programs or communications with penetration programs; systems etc”

Cyber security treated just like weapons technology

The draft bill was not well-received by the industry and an emergency meeting was held between cyber security companies to discuss. This led to clarification from Dubi Lavi of the Defence Export Controls Agency (DECA) who said:"Oversight will only be placed on the necessary things, almost the entire protection sector will not require oversight. 70-80 per cent of the systems designed to gather information and for attack, which are to all intents and purposes weapons systems will be overseen."

To me this is a nice problem to have; being a role model in cyber security has economic benefits. However there are responsibilities that come with this territory.

Read more: Australia and US to hold annual cyber security dialogue

Clearly cyber security technology will have an increasingly strategic position for nations and companies and that’s why it was on the agenda at Davos.It also signals a shift that starts to see cyber security software to be treated in the same way that strategic weapons trade has been.

In many ways cyber security warfare has truly begun.

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