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Cyber Revolution for Digital India- Lessons From Israel

Cyber security has become a global concern as nations become increasingly reliant on technology. While the internet economy has delivered growth and efficiency at an unprecedented scale, it has also made governments, industry and citizens more vulnerable to cyber attacks. India is among the top target countries along with South Korea, South Africa, China, Malaysia and Russia facing the highest number of cyber threats. Recent reports point out that globally, 5% of cyber attacks take place in India, due to vulnerability in software or hardware. The cyber issue also poses a threat to the Indian IT Industry, which is the largest contributor of the Indian services and export sector.

Recently, 5th International Cyber Security Conference, (June 22nd to June 25th) held jointly by the Yuval Ne'eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security, the National Cyber Bureau, the Prime Minister's Office, the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC) and Tel Aviv University, Israel brought together leading international cyber experts, policymakers, researchers, security officials and diplomats for an exchange of knowledge, methods and ideas concerning evolving cyber technologies.

2The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) which was one of the partners of the Conference mounted a 36 delegation Mission from India which was led by Mr Rajendra S Pawar, Founder & Chairman & Co-founder NIIT Group & Founder NIIT University, with a focus on strengthening Indo-Israel collaboration in the cyber security space. The Mission comprised of leading stalwarts from Indian Academia viz. Professors from IIT Chennai, IIT Kanpur & IIT Indore & Head Honchos from companies like TCS, Wipro, Infosys, CA Technologies, Bhairav Infobiz, Synergia Foundation, Dynamic Logistics, Basket Options and Consultants from PwC and PLR Chambers a legal outfit which has been Advisor to PMO on Cyber Laws. A large contingent from the State of Maharashtra led by the Principal Secretary, Home was following up on the earlier visit of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr Devendra Fadnavis to Israel. The Bombay Stock Exchange & the National Stock Exchange both of which have been declared as National Critical Information Infrastructure were also represented by their CISOs.

The focus of the Mission was to strengthen the ecosystem for cyber security and to look at adaptive learning models to keep pace with the dynamic challenges, with following aims:-

  • Create knowledge sharing platforms on cyber security and cyber technology solutions between India and Israel.
  • Enable Indian Industry to gain first-hand experience on the successful models adopted in the area of Cyber Security, with a focus on building enhanced competencies in R&D, capacity building & training.
  • Provide focused platform for B2B meetings for Joint Ventures & Technology tie-ups between Indian & Israeli industry.

The Conference was inaugurated by Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, Hon'ble Prime Minister of Israel, who stressed the importance of Cyber Security in an unconventional world of Cyber Wars and huge asymmetries where we need to question all fundamental assumptions as they do not hold true any longer in a dynamic world changing at a dramatic pace. He quoted how even Prophet Abraham in ancient times had exhorted his people to question the Idea of God.

 Major Gen. (Retd.) Prof Isaac Ben-Israel, Chairman of the Israeli Space Agency welcomed the delegates to the conference in the presence of the US Ambassador Daniel B Shapiro and Dr Eviatar Matania, Head of National Cyber Bureau, PMO Israel, who also spoke on the occasion and set the tone for the conference. Prof Ben Israel a friend of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Ex President of India who has been to India several times, was instrumental in setting up the Israeli National Cyber Bureau which is part of the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. This is indicative of the importance accorded to Cyber Security issues in Israel.

Many eminent speakers of the Israeli Defence Establishment contributed to the proceedings and elaborated upon how Cyber Espionage & Cyber Warfare have become the latest instruments of war and the measures which are being taken by Israel to tackle such issues. It was also emphasized how Supply Chain Contamination by cyber attacks could prove fatal for the Armed Forces in case of a war.

Mr Rajendra S Pawar in his presentation very succinctly brought out the synergies between India and Israel and spelt out how India offers scale for Israel's scope. He shared a video clipping of NASSCOM where the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi had urged India to build a strong workforce of Cyber Security professionals urgently. There are huge opportunities which can be tapped if both these countries can find a way to work together. He also mentioned that one of the reasons for this delegation to visit Israel was to prepare the ground for the historic visit of the Hon'ble President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee in October to strengthen ties between India & Israel and take them into the next orbit.

Prof V S Subrahmanian, Prof of Computer Science, University of Maryland & Head of the Center for Digital International Government, who was also participating in the Indian Mission, has developed big data analytics including methods to analyze vast bodies of text, learn models of behaviors of entities from the data, forecast actions by these entities, and methods to influence these behaviors. He developed the OASYS opinion analysis system which works on 8 languages and won the 2007 Computerworld Horizon Award, the CARA Cultural Reasoning Architecture and the SOMA stochastic logical model for building models of group behaviors. He has applied this to modeling over 45 terror groups worldwide. His SCARE system for identifying locations of IED weapons caches in Baghdad and in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar in Afghanistan was the first system to accurately and efficiently identify locations of weapons caches. He is credited with accurately forecasting terror attacks by groups such as Hezbollah, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Indian Mujahideen. He is wrapping up the first global measure of cyber-vulnerability of countries around the world

There was also an India-Israel Workshop on Technology Transfer/Investments where a few start ups showcased their cyber technologies seeking investment, scaling up opportunities and growth capital by way of joint ventures and mergers & acquisitions with Indian companies. The unique thing about these start ups is that they have been promoted by serving members of the Israeli Armed Forces, generally from their Cyber Intelligence Units where even their military unit picks up a stake before academia and investment bankers come and help scale it up.

Praful Talera

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