Saturday 15 December 2018

WATCH: CyberGym is coming to Ireland - training organisations against cyber attacks through real-life warfare

Louise Kelly in Israel

An Israeli startup that trains organisations in how to deal with cyber attacks through real-life warfare experiences plans to open a unit in Ireland.

CyberGym encourages firms to participate in 'real' conditions through customised training sessions tailored for board level members to mid-level employees.

"Before you get into a fight, you want to know what it's like to get boxed in the face," founder and CEO Ofir Hason said during a tour of unit facilities in Hadera, Israel.

"You can't protect against 100pc of attacks but you can learn how to contain the attacks."

Read more: 'More to tech jobs than foosball, fry-ups and meetings on beanbags'


The joint venture of Israel's National Electric Corporation (IEC) and CyberControl, a cyber security consultancy, was founded in 2013.

Its original purpose was to protect Israel’s national electricity network which was facing up to 6,000 network events per second at the time.

Since then, CyberGym has expanded to Portugal, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Australia.

It plans to expand in the near future to the North America, Asia - and the UK and Ireland over the next 12 months.

"In 2018, we are looking to expand into this region," Mr Hason told Independent.ie.

"We are currently working with some strategic partners in Ireland, the names of which I can't currently disclose."

CyberGym's unique approach to preparing for potential cyber attacks is built upon the experience defending IEC operations, and the talent from the Israel Defense Forces' Unit 8200.

The training facility is based in an idyllic leafy park at Heftziba Farm, a nod to the movement from agriculture to technology that Israel has undergone.

During the sessions, the real life applications, for utilities, manufacturing, banking, IT, etc are 'played' by three teams. The blue team represents those who are training, 'where teamwork is key, you can't save the world with one keyboard strike', according to Mr Hason.

Members of the experienced white team essentially manage the scenario, review, debrief and provide recommendations for the blue team post-exercise.

The red team is built with genuine hackers, their actions sounding an alarm and creating 'uncomfortable conditions' for the blue team.

CyberGym's hacker team is made up of over 10 individuals, which Mr Hason maintains is the biggest group of hackers in one private company.

"The biggest challenge is in recruiting these guys," he told Independent.ie.

"We pay them a lot of money, yes, but it depends on more than that. They want freedom, a challenge, the ability to do what they want."

Inside the red team room, two hackers aged in their early 20s - at least one who came to CyberGym directly from Unit 8200 - sat at computer screens with hoods up to obscure their identity.

Mr Hason acknowledged that there are many powerful groups out there in the cyber arena including Isis and Al Quaida and believes that "if you don't respect your opponents, then you will fail."

In terms of return on investment (ROI) for organisations who take part in the training sessions, Mr Hason said:

"Good training is more effective than putting another firewall another anti-virus protection.

"We need to change the rules of the game to give the good guys a better advantage."

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