Paris forum sees Covid 19 heightening cyber vulnerability

Maurice Levy  photo: Tamar Matsafi

Everyone at the 14th Cybersecurity Forum in Paris (via Zoom) agreed that the cyber world has become hyperactive, on both sides.

France-Israel Chamber of Commerce president Henri Cukierman set the tone with a rephrasing of the Passover Haggadah: "Why is this year different from every other year?" he asked the CISOs, plugged in to listen to experts address the theme: "Cybersecurity five years down the road: evolution, revolution or total disruption?"

The difference is that due to Covid-related restrictions, this became a Zoom-only event, a pure cyber strategy forum featuring a number of cyber-insider speakers from Israel, the US, and one corporate giant figure from Paris.

But first, a Forum awards ceremony was announced. For the first time, two French CISOs from large groups, and one Israeli and two French cyber companies, were thus honored.

The winners were Pierre Blanchier of Boursorama, Mauro Israel, the "net-wizard" at Orpea, Jean-Nicolas Piotrowski of ITrust, Teodor Chabin of CyberLead, and Ofer Israeli of Ilusive Networks.

Then the fireworks commenced…on screen.

Nadav Zafrir, head of cyber foundry Team8, based in New York and Tel Aviv, well known as a former commander of Unit 8200, Israel’s elite military intelligence unit, opened with, "I did a face-to-face event here in Manhattan recently, talking to people wearing masks. That is worse than speaking on Zoom, because you cannot see how people are reacting to what you are saying." NB: Zafrir shared the guest speaker slot with the cybersecurity chief at Airbus at this very Forum in 2018, his first-ever public appearance in Paris.

That was the last more or less funny thing he said. "Sending 95% of the workforce to remote overnight is unprecedented," Zafrir continued. "And now technology is racing faster than the evolution of people, and so security must be codified. Decisions will be made by interconnected machines driven by code in real time," he added. "And the fight against cybercrime is about resilience, or detecting and responding, not just simple protecting."

He was joined "on stage" for a "fireside chat" by Maurice Levy, the chairman of the board and former president of the Publicis Groupe, the third largest advertising and communications group in the world. He is also the co-founder of the annual Vivatech new technologies show in Paris.

He stressed that cybersecurity must be demystified so that company presidents understand that it must be a priority. "For many company heads, security is about insurance on buildings, for example, something tangible," Levy explained, "but data is intangible, and the cloud even more so."

He has always had what he calls a "bias for security". Back in another century, in 1972, the young engineer was head of IT at Publicis, when a devastating fire ripped through the building on the Champs Elysées. He ran into the burning building and came out with the magnetic tapes on which he had backed up all of the company’s data…financials, clients, adverts, everything. Levy told Globes that putting data on computers was uncommon at the time, but backing up computer files on magnetic tapes was extremely rare.

"I rescued a lot of material and saved the company," he told the forum with a hint of a smile. "We didn’t miss an ad." For that brave move, he was eventually named to head Publicis, and the rest is history. "Data can be eaten and destroyed by hackers, thus killing the company," Levy added, just like the fire almost did so many years ago.

"Today, a company cannot function without access to all the business processes inside the system that is being protected, and the CEO must know everything that is going on. If he doesn’t, perhaps his competency should be questioned. You see, it is good to be paranoid about security."

For next speaker Udi Mokady, founder and CEO of CyberArk, a publicly traded information security company based in Petah Tikva and Boston, cybersecurity is all about access. The company’s Privileged Access Management, PAM, is widely used by Fortune 500 companies. Security perimeter is no longer a buzzword.

"Identity is the new perimeter, and almost any identity can be privileged through any access level," Mokady told the CISO faces on screen.

He added that with the pandemic-provoked great digital migration to remote, company research has shown that 70% of home workers in the US are using unsecured computers or other devices.

"We have been accelerated into the future by the Covid-19 crisis," Mokady declared from Boston. "This migration has brought multiple vulnerabilities across many systems. Home workers must be secured."

But cybersecurity also means finding breaches from secondary sources. The Asero group provides the latest innovations in the field of homeland security, among other things. Founder and CEO Doron Bergerbest-Eilon, a former high-ranking Israel Security Agency commander, noted "attacks used to concern critical assets, but now they go for auxiliary systems as well."

He and Israel division chief Zori Kor, another former Israel Security Agency officer, told the French CISOs that Asero has contracted with an unnamed national government to analyse and upgrade an ecosystem in the field of aviation, in other words, an entire airport, something reportedly never done before. "We are mapping hundreds of auxiliary systems that support the critical infrastructure," explained Kor, "identifying risks and looking for cybercrime scenarios."

Next came perhaps the most philosophical and technical presentation of the forum, by current senior Pentagon advisor and senior director at VMWare, Lewis Shepherd. Speaking from Washington, he explained that the current state of cybersecurity is based on the convergence of three trends: advanced machine learning, network virtualisation and cognitive attacks.

Shepherd was very direct, saying "There will be a plethora of malevolent attacks in 2025 with new technology by state and non-state actors. Russia and China will also come under attack. It will be a constant brush fire of information attacks."

He noted that in certain elite circles, there have been calls for a Manhattan Project for cybersecurity, similar to the group of scientists who developed the atomic bomb. Yes.

VP for security solutions at Check Point Avi Rembaum noted that during the Cold War, the equation of mutually assured destruction held the United States and the Soviet Union in check. But with growing massive criminal attacks, the equation no longer holds. "The covid pandemic will fade but the cyber effect will remain," he said. "There will be a global cyber pandemic that will go farther and faster than the biological pandemic."

And security will be all about the cloud. "IT will move to the cloud," he declared. "There will be a re-design of how security operates and who is responsible for security in this new world."

And then Esti Peshin took the microphone, so to speak. The general manager of the cyber division of Israel Aerospace Industries and chief of the high tech caucus at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, opened with, "I should have been in Paris. I love Paris, but here I am in Ashdod."

Guest speaker at the 2014 and 2017 Forums, she noted that cyber-crime is a weapon that is increasingly "widening the skills gap between attackers and defenders. This skills deficit is a major challenge for corporations and governments," she said.

Peshin added that nations must put digital protection into high gear. "In Israel, cyber-hygiene begins in the 5th grade," she said. In other words, it begins with 10 year olds!! No wonder Unit 8200 exists in Israel.

The thing about Zoom forums is that down time becomes dead time, and that is not good.

Suddenly, Forum symposiarch since 2006 Dominique Bourra (on behalf of the CCFI and the Paris Chamber of Commerce) was saying, "We are grateful for your participation in the Forum in these unusual circumstances. And we hope to see you face to face on March 22 next year. Thank you all, speakers and attendees." And then click, the image on the computer screen sort of collapsed inward and went blank. And that was it.

Off-screen, Bourra told Globes, "This forum has always served as a fantastic sandbox that brings exclusive Israeli start-ups into the French market for the first time. Carefully chosen, they are almost always start-ups that succeed. They are "en avance de phase"…ahead of the game. But this forum was very different. And I think we did well to to go one step further and organize a strategy session. Cybercrime is on the upswing. And security must stay ahead of the game."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 12, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Maurice Levy  photo: Tamar Matsafi
Maurice Levy photo: Tamar Matsafi
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