Interview with Eyal Balicer, former Head of Research and Analysis at the National Cyber Bureau



The proximity between military, economics and intelligence is perceived very positively in Israel, whereas it creates negatives headlines in Germany. Where do you see the advantages of the approach of Israel and what would Germany be able to learn from Israel in this respect?

The IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, the army, was established long before cyber security was even an issue. And it was established to primarily mitigate other threats than cyber-attacks. But the fact that we (in Israel) do have the IDF, that we do have the army - It serves as an organic screening process that promotes the Israeli cyber ecosystem as a whole. When you have that kind of mandatory draft of every 18-year-old in Israel, you can really pick and choose the best and the brightest and train them with cutting-edge technologies, delegate them with enormous responsibilities and just give them the opportunity to encounter challenges they would never encounter in the civilian world. So, it really creates a prosperous ground where they can thrive, and later on, they could succeed in the same way in the academy, in the industry and in other places. So, it's a good starting point for them, when we are talking about the cyber security aspects in that context. 

Now, coming from the meta level to a more personal level: Do you see any cul-tural differences between Israel and Germany, when it, for example, comes to innovative products like smart home products or self-driving cars? Are people in Israel afraid of these products, because they let cyber into their home so to say?

The Israeli people in general are very security-oriented, so I do think there is awareness to the vulnerabilities that those kind of products encompass. But I do believe that there are also similarities between Israelis and Germans: ordinary civilians will understand that those products are vulnerable and that they should prefer security over usability. Until that kind of assumption will really trickle-down and consumers, from all around, will embrace it, the manufacturers will not embrace it in the same way. So, we need to have wide-acceptance of that assumption, and later on, I think that the manufacturers will act accordingly. 

For many of these innovations, big data is necessary. In Europe we tend to be very or rather over-protective with our data and have lots of regulations on that. How do you deal with that in Israel? How is the innovation culture there?

I will start by saying that we do understand that privacy is important, especially in this technology-driven world, in the world of IoT (Internet of Things). Even what seemed before to be just negligible information, just small pieces of information - when you aggregate them and integrate them, they could create a very unique prism into someone's life, habits and environment. So, it's really important to see how do we adopt new regulations and new standards, so we could secure those people. In Israel, it's probably the same as in other places around the world, where we are trying on the one hand, to secure and protect our civilians, but on the other hand, we also don't want to impede or curtail the innovation that is being generated in our companies, in our economy. So, it's really important to at least enable them to keep on going with their business innovation and just create new innovative best-of-breed solutions without hampering that kind of future development. 

Young woman meets Robot

Digital responsibility

Experts discuss about chances and risks of digitization.