Cyber Security in Israel

Israel has been at the forefront of cyber security for at least the past two decades. From publicly traded, major corporations to the hundreds of startups headquartered throughout the country, Israel boasts over 430 cyber security companies, valued at a total value of $3.5B, and representing  approximately 5% of the global cyber security market. Between government and military education, support, and leadership, along with the deeply embedded entrepreneurial spirit, Israel has become a hotbed of cyber security success stories – and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

How Israel Became a Cyber Security Industry Leader

Since its establishment, Israel has had to defend itself against countless enemies along the border and beyond. As global technology has matured, Israeli defense has shifted from thwarting physical attacks to include increasingly often and more dangerous cyber attacks. These infiltrations, whether bombs or hacks, have always kept Israelis on high alert, and focused on preventing the next attack.

Because of this, being one step ahead has always been a part of the Israeli government and military’s guiding mantra. In turn, being one step ahead plays a big part in Israeli cultural and political spheres. These direct links between military and civilian areas of life have proven a major reason for the success of cyber security companies in Israel, bringing the entrepreneurial spirit of finding novel and advanced security solutions into the global market.

Government support for the cyber security industry within Israel has been present from the start. Government programs like Kidma and Masad prioritize the cyber defense industry and help support and foster cyber security startups, creating healthy competition. Further, the government has forged partnerships with the army, academia, and cyber security companies, such as the recent 2013 unveiling of the at Ben-Gurion University, as well as the annual CyberWeek at Tel Aviv University.

Ben-Gurion University, host to the Cyber Security Research Center, combines academia with the army and cyber security companies. CTO of the Center, Dudu Mimran, understands the importance of combining forces for the greater good. “Security is a subject that can be taught theoretically, but nothing can substitute a real, hands-on experience – and we’ve got lots of it,” Mimran told Fortune.

On the military side, cyber security has become one of the army’s biggest focuses over the last several decades,

and the expertise of army veterans in security is yet another one of the major reasons for the success of the cyber security industry in the country. Intelligence recruits of the army – many of whom are between just 18 and 21 years old – are tasked with solving the nation’s biggest cyber crises, often armed with less than ideal resources. Intelligence teams work in small groups to solve major problems and are given permission to innovate, which does a great job at preparing them for high-tech jobs and leadership roles, especially in intelligence and security companies, once they finish their army service. This bootstrapped, collaborative approach follows the soldiers into civilian life, and helps further explain how Israel became the “Start-up Nation.”

The largest division of the Israeli army, 8200 is renowned as one of the most technologically advanced intelligence teams in the world. Its veterans have founded more security companies after their release from the army, than any other unit. Check Point, one of Israel’s biggest technology and security companies, was founded by 8200 veterans , Gil Shwed and Shlomo Kramer. In 1993, before Cisco was even founded, the two released one of the first firewalls in the world, based on an idea Shwed had while still in the army. As another former 8200 veteran, Team8 founder and CEO, Nadav Zafrir explained to Globes, “[their] experiences…in the army during their military service prepare them for the world of startups, innovation, and entrepreneurship almost better than any institution of higher learning.”

The entrepreneurial spirit of innovation helps Israeli companies better understand

the trajectories of new and emerging technologies and cultural changes,from IoT (Internet of Things) and cloud security to automotive security. A strong case in point is the growing number of companies catering to DevOps teams. DevOps, a cultural shift into deeper, tighter collaboration between development and operations teams, has brought big changes to the organizational structure in enterprises and startups alike – and here too, Israel is meeting the demand.

Israeli company JFrog, for example, raised $50 million last year to help “meet the growing demand for its DevOps and software automation platform.” Other DevOps companies are quickly growing. At the same time, Israelis have also created security companies that offer solutions catering to DevOps teams. WhiteSource, for example, is a continuous open source security platform marketed to DevOps teams. Checkmarx, founded by a former IDF intelligence team member, Maty Siman, is another one of those companies. Its flagship security product, CxSAST, offers a security testing solution that can be integrated with DevOps tools, to help security teams work better alongside the fast-paced DevOps teams. DevOps is still in its infancy. When it combines security into its processes, it’s referred to as DevSecOps.  Israel will undoubtedly see more DevOps and DevSecOps companies and solutions make their way into the market in the next several years.

Ultimately, it’s that entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that truly defines Israel’s stature in the cyber security industry. The idea, “if you see a problem, fix it,” is embedded in Israeli culture, permeating every industry and the thousands of tech startups throughout the country. However, for the cyber security industry, it is Israel’s history of defense which naturally produces more vigor and keeps the industry buzzing – with no sign of letting up.