cyber convening

U.S., UAE and Israeli cyber leaders share the stage in New York

The cyber security and innovation conference was host to a large Israeli delegation and included a panel on Middle Eastern technological collaboration

Tori Bergel

Robert Silvers, Gaby Portnoy and Mohamed Al-Kuwaiti speak at CybertechNYC on November 15, 2022.

At CybertechNYC, the latest in a series of global conferences geared toward tech entrepreneurs at the forefront of the cybersecurity industry, day one of the two-day conference on Tuesday showcased Israel’s dominance in the field and international unity against virtual threats.

Walking through CybertechNYC’s allotted conference room in Manhattan’s Javits Center, attendees first hit the event’s “startup pavilion” — four rows of booths showcasing the latest in cyber tech innovation — where a chorus of Hebrew was being thrown around the crowd.

Cybertech — whose founder, Amir Rapaport, is Israeli — promotes its conferences as international events, with a schedule for next year that includes conferences in Singapore and Rome. Israel, which boasts a reputation as “the startup nation,” had a sizable showing on Tuesday.

“This isn’t an Israeli event,” Anat Katz, economic minister to North America for the Government of Israel Economic Mission, East Coast, told the seated crowd. “At the same time, I think that it’s no coincidence that there’s such a strong presence of Israeli speakers and Israeli companies outside. Outside you’ll be able to find over 35 Israeli companies…and in a reality where every third cyber unicorn is Israeli, and over 30% of investments in cybersecurity basically is channeled to Israel, I think that these figures speak for themselves to the Israeli leadership.”

To explain the country’s abundance of entrepreneurs, Yossi Vardi, an entrepreneur himself and the conference’s chairman, joked that “behind every Israeli kid, there is an ambitious and aggressive Jewish mother who pushes him to succeed.”

“You don’t have to be Jewish and you don’t have to be female [for the sentiment to apply]. It’s not an ethnic question. It’s not a gender question,” he quipped.

Among a series of notable speakers discussing today’s state of cyber security was a panel on cooperation within the Middle East against cyber threats.

Moderated by Christopher Roberti, senior vice president for Cyber, Space, and National Security Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the panel included Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Robert Silvers, Director General of the Israel National Cyber Directorate Gaby Portnoy and UAE Cyber Security Council head Mohamed Al-Kuwaiti. The three industry leaders discussed the biggest threats their respective countries are facing and why collaboration between each other is so important.

“We’re here because we face common threats. We all have critical infrastructure to defend, and it’s just a proven point at this point that cybersecurity is an international issue,” Silvers said. “These threats know no boundaries.”

Portnoy expressed that three issues keep him up at night: Israel’s attackers; whether or not the country has enough assets to defend itself; and the influence of “fake news” in the media. In regard to the first two, Portnoy said that creating a large enough network both at home and abroad, sharing information and technology, can help ease any challenges they face.

“The better the network will be, I think we will bring better solutions and we will fight our attackers better,” he added.

Al-Kuwaiti agreed with the panel’s assessment of cyber attacks, citing them as one of the UAE’s greatest challenges and seconding Portnoy’s sentiment about a lack of resources. He sees inter-country collaboration as a way to bridge those gaps.

“The first line of defense, we said, is partnership,” Al-Kuwaiti expressed, “and we need to spread that culture of cybersecurity…with the like-minded minds of countries and entities who can help us on that.”

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