09 Mar Microsoft Is Israel’s Shining Star In Cyberspace
Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk on Silicon Wadi and cybersecurity
Northport, N.Y. – Mar. 09, 2021
The U.S., number one, and Israel, number two, in the trillion-dollar cybersecurity market, are intertwined in protecting each other and the rest of the world from cybercrime.
Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk recently told us how the Middle Eastern country earned its title as the world’s second-largest exporter of cyber technology and caught the attention of global powerhouses such as Microsoft. She also touched on the impact of COVID-19.
“In a year of a pandemic, the global investment in Israel grew tremendously,” said the corporate vice president, general manager of Israel R&D Center, and CTO of cloud & AI security at Microsoft.
Tremendous is an understatement. 31 percent of global cybersecurity investments took place last year in Israel, up from 25 percent in 2019.
So, what does the small nation have that other countries don’t?
“We have a very unique cyber-ecosystem,” revealed Braverman-Blumenstyk. “I divide it into three [parts].”
Cybercrime Radio: Silicon Wadi and Cybersecurity
Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, GM of Microsoft’s R&D Center in Israel
Israel’s Silicon Valley (Silicon Wadi) is home to dozens of cyber centers for its many startups and multinational companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. Because of their close proximity, business rivalries have become something of the past.
“We all know each other,” explained Braverman-Blumenstyk. “[Our] constant exchanging of ideas, even though we are competitors, creates a lot of cross-pollination and a lot of new ideas and innovations.”
In Israeli schools, students of all ages are encouraged to explore the exciting world of cybersecurity. As the first country to offer an independent Ph.D. program in this high-tech field, Israel was ahead of its time in securing an essential pipeline of future cyberstars.
“Israeli universities are very strong in areas that are relevant to cybersecurity, like cryptography and artificial intelligence,” Braverman-Blumenstyk said. “The newest cybersecurity systems are based on analytics, big data, and AI, and those areas [are accentuated by our education system].”
After high school, every citizen serves in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); often, the best and the brightest are recruited to technology-based units.
By giving soldiers real-life cyber experience, Unit 8200 and others like it produce a steady stream of tech-savvy young people who, after completing their service, can go to Silicon Wadi and found a startup.
“[After being] in the army and [making] life-threatening decisions, it’s easier to make [business] decisions,” said Braverman-Blumenstyk, speaking from personal experience. “You’re [no longer] risk-averse, and innovation and risk-taking go hand-in-hand.”
Inspired by the country’s triumph, in 1991, Microsoft planted its first international R&D center in Israel.
Today, the Microsoft Israel R&D Center is the brand’s most prestigious development center. In recent years, talented employees have developed programs like Microsoft Sentinel, Microsoft Defender, and more.
Since COVID-19 struck last March, cybercrime has spiked by 600 percent, leaving the world desperately in need of these security programs.
“The coronavirus has caused an unprecedented shift in the volume and pace of physical activity into the online space,” Roi Yarom, director for economy and growth at the Israel National Cyber Directorate, said in an interview with the Times of Israel.
“The growing threats have created additional opportunities for the Israeli cyber industry, which has proven once again this year that it is a growth engine and an essential component of national resilience” added Yarom.
This resilience can be seen in Microsoft Israel R&D Center’s Quarantine Blues music video, which was released in April 2020 in response to the COVID lockdown.
“It’s true, it’s not easy being in quarantine,” sing the isolated employees. “But I’m still smiling, cause not all is lost.”
To hear more about Microsoft Israel and Braverman-Blumenstyk’s riveting career, listen to the full podcast episode here.
– Amanda Glassner is a staff writer and reporter at Cybercrime Magazine.