Cybertech New York: Israeli and American experts come together to discuss the future of the global cyber realm

Former CIA chief Petraeus, Israel’s Minister of Communications Hendel, Israel’s Head of Cyber Directorate Unna, and Checkpoint co-founder and CEO Gil Shwed among participants

Cybertech New York: Israeli and American experts come together to discuss the future of the global cyber realm

Cybertech NYC 2021. Photos: Shavit Wallish

Several of the world’s cybersecurity thought leaders attended the very first Cybertech NYC conference, which was held all day yesterday. Among participants were Israel’s Minister of communications, Yoaz Hendel, Former CIA Director, General David H. Petraeus (Ret.), and Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President and former NYC mayoral candidate (Dem.).

Former CIA chief Petraeus spoke about the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to the cyber world: “All of us, on very short noticed, unplugged from our reasonably protected offices and buildings, and took laptops, iphones etc. home, we then hooked into our home routers which also connect with the IoT increasingly – and that has terrible cyber security, if any at all. So the vulnerability has increased tremendously, the sheer number of attacks has exploded.

“And at the same time, we see hackers that have the same motivations they have always had,” continued Petraeus. “Some want money, some want to vacuum up information to use for counter-intelligence, some want to conduct cyber reconnaissance for some future purpose, some want to cause actual damage, disrupt, influence an election, undermine democracy…

"All the usual motivations are still there, but what distinguishes the future, I think, is what we have seen over the course of the last year – ever more diabolically clever hackers. We have seen use of supply chain attacks, very clever exploitations…Microsoft Exchange, Colonial Pipeline, the list goes on.

Still, Petraeus emphasized that almost half the attacks start with a simple bait, “something where someone double clicked – really a lack of cyber hygiene. We need to recognize that no single product, no single application, can provide the kind of designed, comprehensive integrated solution based on zero-trust principles that is necessary for a company,” he said.

With regards to the tech race between the US and China, the former CIA Director refers to the massive Chinese investment in these “technologies of the future – AI, machine learning” and also possible quantum computing. “These are critical technologies, everyone is competing, we’re probably doing more in the private sector, and my hope is that in the programs funded in the infrastructure bill will include national investment in these kinds of technologies. It’s going to be a race to see who will get there first and then figure out how to employ those technologies across the economy.”

In his first public appearance since assuming office, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Asaf Zamir, said that a free, open and vibrant cyberspace is of central importance for global prosperity in the 21st century.

“The historic Abraham Accords empowered more cooperation with Arab countries in the field of cyber and so many other arenas. This includes, collaboration on cyber capabilities, to combat the threat of the Iranian regime against critical infrastructure,” said Zamir.

The next Iron Dome

Israel’s Minister of Communication, MP Yoaz Hendel, outlined his plan for the communication sector in the coming years – bringing Israel to the top 10 global countries in 5th gen infrastructure deployment, and in cellular network quality.

“There is a need for integration between security agencies, regulators, and the business sector to guard the various markets. Every CEO and every Board of Directors must know they have a responsibility for cyber security in their organization.

״Israel will build its next Iron Dome in this sector, and the key is cooperation between all of those entities,” said MP Hendel. History is full of painful battles. We are currently in a new, unfamiliar type of war – a 5g cold war. In this cold war, Israel is committed to  trusted networks, first of all, because of it's own national security interests.”

Human nature is too slow

Ann Dunkin, CIO of the US Department of Energy, discussed risk management: “There are never enough resources to meet all the demands,” she said, adding that given the increasing number of ransomware attacks, it is necessary to reevaluate the way organizations calculate risks. “There is no one system that meets all of our needs at the DoE, we must acknowledge that our human nature is too slow to respond to emerging threats, and among other things, we will have to turn to AI in order to deal with them. Our enemies will do the same.”

Yigal Unna, Head of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, said that the law enforcement authorities should be concerned not only with hunting down the perpetrators, but also with eliminating neglect in the various systems. “Those responsible for the systems who haven’t done their jobs properly must face the consequences,” said Unna.

Another form of neglect, he said, was insufficient employee training. He expressed his surprise over the lack of cyber drills, given that “the changes of getting hit by a cyber attack have increased so much, that we must constantly prepare. Last year’s drill is no longer relevant. When you prepare constantly – while there is still a high change of getting hit, the ability to bounce back and recover is much better.”

Rachel Loeb, President & CEO of NYEDC, spoke about the serious manpower shortage in the "There are 500,000 unmanned cyber jobs across the United States, and 25,000 of them in New York." New York's Deputy Governor Brian Benjamin has expressed hope that in the future, these positions will be filled by young men and women who have grown up in local communities.

״These are people who have talent, but have training. The tide should lift all the boats, and they too should be part of this growth. New York State is open to business - and will do everything possible to work with you, be your partner and help you grow," he said.

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