Israel Army Cyber-Knowhow Helps Companies Find Hacker Talent
As the Flame virus wreaks havoc with Iranian computer systems, Israeli software companies say their country’s expertise with such cyber weapons has created a pool of army-trained hacking talent to hire from.
Billionaire Gil Shwed, who served in an elite intelligence unit, says he has recruited from the military for his Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., the world’s second-largest maker of security networks. Cyber-Ark Software Ltd., another specialist in cyber-defense that sold a stake to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in December, finds top programmers in units that include the army’s nine-year program for exceptional math and science students, Chief Executive Officer Udi Mokady said.
Israel is among the leaders in a global growth industry as governments seek to defend financial systems, power plants and other public resources against cyber threats. The ingenuity of hackers, long regarded as pests bent on penetrating computers for mischief and profit, has become a critical resource with military and commercial payoffs, as Israeli companies seek a share of an $18 billion market.
Israel hasn’t said whether it created Flame. Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said it would be “reasonable” for anyone threatened by Iran to use cyber weapons.
Rated one of three countries best prepared to withstand digital attacks in a McAfee study, Israel is pouring resources into cyber warfare. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are scheduled to speak tomorrow at an international conference on cyber security at Tel Aviv University.
“This is an era that we’re entering into where entire societies can be paralyzed by cyber attack, and Israel is no different,” Netanyahu said on Feb. 19. “We are committed to being one of the three leading cyber powers of the world.”
Israeli companies are benefiting. Check Point’s shares, traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market, have jumped almost 70 percent in the past two years. Both its two main competitors, Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks Inc., have fallen more than 30 percent in that period.