CyberWeek: a showcase of Israel’s cybersecurity supremacy

Published July 7, 2022, 9:55 AM

by Art Samaniego

His Excellency the Hon. Ilan Fluss, Ambassador of Israel to the Philippines invited the Manila Bulletin Technews to participate in this year’s Cyberweek, an annual international cybersecurity event hosted at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Over the past 12 years, Cyber Week has become internationally acclaimed as one of the top cybersecurity events in the world.

The international media, invited by the Israeli government to join the 12th annual cyberweek.

Cyberweek is where cybersecurity experts, industry leaders, startups, investors, academics, diplomats, and government officials openly share knowledge, methods, and ideas on how to stay safe from cybercriminals and nation-state attacks. A nation-state attack is a serious and growing threat faced by organizations of all sizes. Attackers’ primary objective is to gain a strategic advantage for their country by stealing secrets, gathering cyber intelligence, and conducting surveillance against another country.

Israel’s initiative to gather all who matter in cybersecurity in one place is an extraordinary achievement. With more than a hundred different events, seminars, and meetings, and a limited time to cover everything, Ran Natanzon, the Head of Innovation and Brand Management of the Foreign Ministry of Israel, with Adva Weiss expertly arranged the schedule of the select group of international media to understand Israel’s complicated cybersecurity industry.

Cyber Week, held jointly by the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC), The Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security, Tel Aviv University, the Israeli National Cyber Directorate under the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a leading international conference in cybersecurity.

Cybercrime dramatically increased during the pandemic. Online scams spiked by more than 400% in 2020 compared to previous years. Phishing emails grew significantly that Google blocked over 18 million malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 daily. This includes spear-phishing for espionage purposes. A recent study titled “The impact of COVID-19 on cybercrime and state-sponsored cyber activities” by Johannes Wigg found out that groups of hackers believed to be sponsored by Russia, China, and North Korea used personalized emails containing references to the pandemic to infect their targets with malware or steal passwords. And according to the US Healthcare Cybersecurity Market 2022 report, more than 90% of healthcare organizations suffered at least one cybersecurity breach. With all these and the previous threats throughout the years, plus the recent cyber attacks targeting civilians, there is a need for a place to talk about and face these threats head-on.

Cyberweek highlights the need for everyone to take cybersecurity seriously as cybercriminals not only target government agencies and private institutions. Senior citizens, ordinary employees, and even kids are now targeted as they are the most vulnerable sector of society.

Cyberweek also reminds the governments that to take down state-sponsored attackers, they need to cooperate and work together. Gaby Protnoy, Director General of Israel National Cyber Directorate, said, “To stop hackers and protect every citizen, we need everyone’s cooperation. We need to collaborate to win against online threats.” Portnoy added, “you cannot fight cyber aggression alone, and you have to have partners. At home, in your defense community, the government, the different sectors, the academy, the private sector, and worldwide.”

At Cyberweek, Cyber Emergency Response Team – Israel (CERT-IL) also emphasized the need to spend to protect networks and systems. CERT-IL handles cyber incidents in the civilian sphere in Israel. “You need to have a budget for advanced tools and invest in people to use these tools efficiently,” Erez Tidhar, Executive Director of CERT-IL told the media at the CERT-IL headquarters in Beer Sheva, Israel. “Every dollar you spend on cybersecurity, you save 80 dollars when sophisticated hackers target you,”  he added.

The 12th Cyberweek in Tel Aviv shows that governments are willing to share and cooperate to contain cyber attacks from nation-state attackers and cyber criminals victimizing ordinary netizens. Israel also presented to the world its superiority when it comes to cybersecurity, an accomplishment many countries are trying to emulate. The Philippines, for example, sent delegations from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to learn how Israel successfully integrated cybersecurity into the people’s lives. (I will publish the out-of-this-world cybersecurity research and innovation Israel is doing in a separate story.)

Most importantly, Cyberweek brought together ethical cybersecurity enthusiasts and decision-makers to discuss how to effectively fight cyber criminals and nation-state attackers on the Internet without breaking any law.