An Israeli cybersecurity firm bringing a $100,000 hacking competition to Atlanta has also made the city its U.S. hub, swayed by a team effort from across its economic development community.
The fact that Tel Aviv-based Cyber 2.0 has spun up its complex contest in a matter of months with partners like the University of North Georgia and Georgia Tech is a testament to the welcome provided by Atlanta, Vice President of Sales Sneer Rozenfeld told Global Atlanta.
“It was amazing how fast they got it up and how excited they were about bringing this challenge,” Mr. Rozenfeld said in a telephone interview from Israel.
On Feb. 14, Cyber 2.0 will put a PDF file behind its firewall and ask hundreds of hackers from Atlanta and beyond to try to break in and steal it. The winner, if there is one, will take home a $100,000 check, while Cyber 2.0 will receive valuable data to help improve a solution that already protects banks, hospitals and some military assets on a pilot basis.
The idea for bringing the contest to Atlanta came from Guy Tessler, president of Conexx, the Atlanta-based America Israel Business Connector.
Mr. Tessler had heard of Cyber 2.0’s contest in Israel last year, in which 300 hackers failed to breach its systems. That gave the three-year-old company a public stress test and proof of concept that helped make its case to customers wary of trying out a new solution on live systems.
“He said, ‘Let’s do it in Atlanta; it would be a good selling point for you,’” said Mr. Rozenfeld, who expects up to 500 hackers to participate in the Atlanta event.
That was a turning point that helped Cyber 2.0 decide where to put down roots in the U.S. The company had attended the SelectUSA summit in Washington this year, a forum established under President Obama where representatives from all 50 states gather to pitch their advantages to foreign companies. But that left Cyber 2.0 perhaps more confused than when they started.
“There is no book, no manual, to tell you where you should go,” he said.
It was the persistent followup that persuaded the company of Georgia was the right place, despite entreaties from Texas congressmen and Maryland boosters.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s representative in Israel, Sima Amir, had tried to save them the trouble. She had visited the Cyber 2.0 offices before they traveled to Washington, telling them to skip the summit and head straight to Georgia, which has a critical mass of cybersecurity firms, a slew of corporate headquarters, a thriving tech scene and the U.S. Army Cyber Command at Augusta’s Fort Gordon.
When they went anyway, she set up a meeting on the sidelines with the Metro Atlanta Chamber. After that, Mr. Rozenfeld said he was invited by organizers to the CyberHub Summit in Atlanta, which was part of the broader Atlanta Cyber Week in October. Invitations came in from multiple points, in contrast to the sparse followup from other places.
“Everybody wanted us to come. We got to know Southern hospitality, as they call it. Everyone was talking to us, not just the chamber of commerce,” Mr. Rozenfeld said.
That helped clinch it, despite the fact that Georgia wasn’t on the lists of cyber hubs the company consulted in their market research. The company has recently hired its first salesperson in Atlanta.
“Georgia wasn’t one of the 10, but Georgia wants to be, and they are pushing,” he said.
On multiple trips, Mr. Rozenfeld, a big basketball fan, saw the Atlanta Hawks play and went to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. He walked the city to get to know it better.
A former flight attendant, Mr. Rozenfeld is looking forward to being back in Atlanta to show off a solution developed by co-founders Hertzel Ozer, a former CEO of Israel’s Hot Television Network, and CTO Erez Kaplan. The two started working together when Mr. Ozer sought a comprehensive solution to protect one of the country’s top cable networks from infiltrators.
The Cyber 2.0 system protects companies through what Mr. Rozenfeld says is a new paradigm. Most computer systems are based on a “biological model” in which the host system detects and attacks new threats or infections. Cyber 2.0 circumvents that problem by using “mathematics of chaos” to limit software programs’ access to the Internet and wall off systems.
“While everyone is working on the prospect of detection and prevention, we can do prevention without detection,” he said.
The Valentines Day hacking competition is to be held at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Midtown.
More information and registration can be found here.
Learn more at https://cyber20.com.