Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Training & Security Leadership

How the Cybersecurity Industry Is Aiding Israel's War Effort

Cyber Vendors With Large Israeli Footprint Grapple With Displaced, Deployed Workers
How the Cybersecurity Industry Is Aiding Israel's War Effort
Isreaeli troops in a photo dated Oct. 8, 2023 (Image: Israel Defense Forces)

When the sirens starting blaring near Tel Aviv at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Amitai Ratzon assumed it was a false alarm.

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Once Ratzon opened his phone and saw the atrocities occurring just miles away, he immediately woke his children and rushed them to the shelter. The former Paratroopers 890 battalion combat officer and current CEO of automated security validation firm Pentera spent hours in shock at a scene he compared to "30,000 U.S. kids, men and women getting kidnapped from Jersey City and taken to Afghanistan."

"I have a father, and I have kids and a wife and a mother and my brothers to take care of, but I also run a company," Ratzon told Information Security Media Group. "What does it mean for the company? It took me a few hours to just get out of this immediate shock and think about the other responsibilities that in those hours were diminished."

Ratzon was relieved to learn in subsequent days that none of Pentera's 180 Israel-based workers was hurt in the attack, and that the close-knit families of employees were safe as well. The news was similar for Aqua Security, Armis, CyberArk, Palo Alto Networks and Tenable, where spokespeople at each of the companies told ISMG that all of their Israel-based employees are safe and accounted for.

At Cyera, employees provided support to injured and displaced individuals as well as families suffering the loss of their loved ones and those they hold dear, a company spokesperson told ISMG. And digital journey continuity vendor Namogoo said Tuesday team leader Gal Navon - who they called "a wellspring of inspiration" - had been "murdered by the brutal Hamas and Jihad terrorists."

"Gal's remarkable kindness, compassion and unwavering dedication left an enduring imprint on our company and all those who had the privilege to work alongside him," Namogoo wrote on LinkedIn Tuesday. "As we mourn the loss of Gal, we remember the countless moments of laughter, camaraderie and growth we shared with him."

From Office Worker to Infantry Soldier

Cybersecurity companies across the globe are now preparing for a sizable chunk of their Israel-based workforce to either be drafted into the country's military reserves or volunteer to support an incursion into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. At Pentera, about 20 employees - or 11% of the firm's Israel-based workforce - were called for duty and deployed, and Ratzon said staff in other countries will help cover their work (see: War in Israel: Cyber, Kinetic Implications for the World).

Less than 10% of Aqua Security and Armis' Israeli workforces have been deployed by the military, with each company employing approximately 200 individuals in Israel, according to company spokespeople. Research and development is the largest team in CyberArk's 1,000-person Israel office, and the company plans to call on its growing R&D footprint in India to cover for Israeli staffers called into military service.

Entrée Capital founder Avi Eyal told Calcalist Tuesday between 10% and 30% of staff at most Israeli startups were called into the reserves, with Vine Ventures founder Eric Reiner saying it's as high as 50%.

The Israeli military summoned roughly 360,000 reservists to join the fight against Hamas, meaning some 4% of Israel’s 9.8 million population will take up arms against the Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip, The Washington Post reported. The mobilization will impact a startup like Cyera - which has half its staff in Israel - more than a public company like Palo Alto Networks, where 7% of staff is based in Israel.

"A few of our very talented researchers are ex-elite military units, and some of them are helping protect the greater country of Israel against cyberattacks, which is something I'm very proud of," Ratzon said. "But we also have many infantry guys that are now serving in the field that have nothing to do with cybersecurity, but way before they started their cybersecurity careers, they were infantry soldiers."

Helping Out Those In Need

Cybersecurity companies with a large Israeli footprint have in recent days taken steps to support their workers or the country at large. Cyera is running a donation drive to gather essential supplies for Israeli soldiers at the front lines, while Tenable has sent care packages to its Israeli employees and advised them to be fully present with their loved ones, according to company spokespeople (see: Israel-Hamas War: Publicity-Seeking Hacktivists Take Sides).

Ratzon said some of Pentera's Israel-based staff are currently working from Cyprus, Greece or Germany with the company's blessing. Check Point, meanwhile, provided emotional support to employees living in the South of Israel and helped accommodate them in the center of Israel when needed, while Tenable has enabled fully remote work in Israel and cancelled non-critical meetings, company spokespeople said.

Armis is supporting affected staff with housing, hotels and psychological help along with contributing to collective efforts across the high-tech sector to provide assistance with food and equipment, a company spokesperson said. And Aqua Security employees in Israel have grouped together to deliver food and refreshments to reserve duty forces as well as to host families from Israel's South, a spokesperson said.

"Lots of emotions are going on," said Ratzon, who praised his managers for giving employees time to deal with the shock.

"You can't just go through this trauma and pretend like it's all good. It's not all good," he said.

Updated Oct. 12, 2023 16:33 UTC: Adds information about CyberArk

About the Author

Michael Novinson

Michael Novinson

Managing Editor, Business, ISMG

Novinson is responsible for covering the vendor and technology landscape. Prior to joining ISMG, he spent four and a half years covering all the major cybersecurity vendors at CRN, with a focus on their programs and offerings for IT service providers. He was recognized for his breaking news coverage of the August 2019 coordinated ransomware attack against local governments in Texas as well as for his continued reporting around the SolarWinds hack in late 2020 and early 2021.

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