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‘Middle East 2.0’: Cybertech Global Tel Aviv 2024

Cybersecurity leaders from more than 60 countries gathered in Tel Aviv in the shadow of Israel's six-month war against Hamas.

People check out the booths at Cybertech Global TLV 2023. Photo by Judith Segaloff.
People check out the booths at Cybertech Global TLV 2023. Photo by Judith Segaloff.

Cybersecurity leaders from over 60 countries gathered this week in Tel Aviv to showcase technologies and discuss ways to boost southern Israel in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

“It has been a dark and painful time for Israel, but alongside the darkness, these painful times have also shown us tremendous light,” said Israeli President Isaac Herzog in his Wednesday address to the Cybertech Global Tel Aviv 2024 conference.

“We’ve seen the tremendous light of Israeli social resilience and solidarity, care, ingenuity and determination on the frontlines and the home front,” he said.

Herzog recalled his early April meeting with members of the Gaza border community of Kibbutz Holit, where 15 residents were killed during Hamas’s assault.

To help the kibbutz recover, Intel’s accelerator program partnered with Rumafeed, a Hebrew University startup, to enhance agricultural development. 

“Kibbutz Holit will not only be rebuilt, it will become a center of world-changing technologies in the fields of food-tech and food security,” said Herzog. 

The president also emphasized the need to counter Hamas’s effort to erase “mutual respect, tolerance and dialogue embodied in the Abraham Accords,” which normalized ties between the Jewish state and four Arab countries—the United Araba Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

“Hamas and its Iranian sponsors sought to block the winds of cooperation and integration blowing throughout our region”, Herzog said. “We can turn this tragedy into an opportunity to build the Middle East 2.0, to reboot, reset, regenerate and build a new architecture and a new operating system for our region,” he added.

Director General of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate (INCD) Gaby Portnoy spoke of the increased threat level that Israel has remained under since Oct. 7. 

“On the digital level, by the order of [Iranian] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, cyberattacks by Iran and Hezbollah in the region and beyond [have] started around the clock against Israel,” Portnoy told conference attendees on Tuesday. 

“The attack intensity [since Oct. 7] is higher than ever before, with [enemies] cooperating to attack Israel in every sector,” he added. 

Portnoy revealed that Iran also uses civilian proxies to launch cyber attacks against Israeli targets.

“I strongly recommend every hacker, especially those working for Iran, to think about the potential implications of cyberterrorism against Israel or its allies—even if you are doing it from a civilian office at the heart of Tehran: We know you,” Portnoy warned. 

The conference was attended by representatives of industry leaders such as Cisco Systems, Check Point Software Technologies and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Other events under the Cybertech banner take place throughout the year in cities including Rome, New York and Singapore.  

Former defense minister and current chairman of IAI Amir Peretz on Wednesday addressed Israel’s hard-hit south.

“As a resident of Sderot who did not leave the city this entire time, I turn to you. Southern communities need substantial investments to rebuild and create a new ecosystem,” he said. 

“Come to the periphery, come to the Gaza envelope as well as the north. We will not give up on those areas and every citizen will be able to build a future in innovative fields,” he added. 

According to data from conference organizers, Israeli cyber companies’ exits reached a record high of $7.1 billion in 2023. However, the number of companies making exits decreased by 35% compared to 2021. There was also a decline of 43% in fundraising compared to 2022. 

Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir, who represented the municipality at the event, told JNS that “this year is the hardest year we’ve ever had. We are in the middle of a war […] people are more afraid to come.”

Cybertech’s founder, Amir Rapaport, said cyber companies “represent the resilience of Israeli high-tech, and even in a tense security and political situation, they serve as a secure anchor for Israeli innovation.”

He went on to say that, “In contrast to other sectors, geopolitical tensions increase interest and investment in cyber companies. Therefore, we expect to see more investments in Israeli cyber companies and new startups that address emerging threats.” 

In the main hall at the Tel Aviv Expo, dozens of yellow chairs were set up, along with pictures of the 133 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.  

“Most of us presenters, speakers and the companies that come here, it feels like we live a ‘dual life,'” Atara Marom, marketing and events manager at CyberArk, which has presented at the conference for a decade running, told JNS. 

“We live with everything that is going on in Israel right now, with the situation, the hostages in Gaza. Still, we carry on because that’s our job, it is part of us being resilient, supporting our country and making business happen while we’re still fighting,” she added.

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