By AIFL - Feb 16, 2016

Exclusive: Jim Fletcher interviews 'scary-smart' experts in high-tech field jim 1 One of the pleasures of interviewing writers is the opportunity to visit with experts in various fields. Knowing the 2016 CyberTech Conference had just concluded in Israel, I contacted some participants. They were part of a 10-person delegation coordinated by the America-Israel Friendship League and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I spoke with three who write about cyber security: Anthony Freed, Ben Rothke and Richard Steinnon. You know, people who are scary-smart. Cyber technology has become a necessary component of living in the modern world. The linkage of every facet of our lives via computers ensures that professionals must monitor cyberspace every second of every day. Additionally, obviously, cyber-terrorism – the disruption of computer systems – looms large. [caption id="attachment_3897" align="alignnone" width="748"] Participants enjoyed networking at the CyberTech Conference [/caption] Israel is a unique home for cyber-tech companies, and the AIFL delegation is fascinating for that reason alone. For once, Israel’s tiny geographic size is an asset. “It’s much easier for them [Israel] to coordinate at every level. I think that’s why they are a great model,” said Steinnon. “In the U.S., we have had 60 cyber security bills introduced, and about four of them have been passed.” The CyberTech Conference provided a sort of cozy atmosphere for much networking, so Israel’s place in this particular community was seen in microcosm. Daniella Rilov, the executive director of the AIFL, was happy with the results of the conference, since it dovetailed with the group’s foundational goals: “This is our first Cyber security Journalists delegation and we are certain it will not be the last! Cyber security highlights an area in which Israel excels and her cyber security experts introduced a dialogue in a language that is easily spoken amongst colleagues. I was honored to join these distinguished American Cyber journalists and to witness their profoundly positive response as they visited Israel for the first time. Seeing Israel through their eyes reminded me of the truly unique value of this amazing country.” It is indeed, and the country’s astonishing success rate in technology – at the same time Israelis battle terrorism on every level – was the best feature of this conference. Ben Rothke, a senior information security consultant with the Nettitude Group, observed how the “Start-up Nation” functions up close: “I think Israeli hi-tech is at the forefront of a lot of things. You need some good brainpower, but the government also supports it significantly. They give grants to companies all over, seed money to really get them moving. I think those types of investments have seemingly paid huge dividends for these startups. … In some cases, it’s a disadvantage to be small, but in this case it’s a huge advantage for Israel.” With a journalism background, Anthony Freed now works with For him, the “fantastic, action-packed week” was highlighted by dinner with (retired) General Danny Gold, known as the “Father of Israel’s Iron Dome Project.” Gold detailed the missile defense system for the delegation, and Freed noted that the system has been about 90 percent effective (Israel at times allows an incoming missile to fall harmlessly in open territory). [caption id="attachment_3898" align="alignnone" width="600"]Gen. Danny Gold explains the Iron Dome Project Read more at Gen. Danny Gold explains the Iron Dome Project[/caption] “It was very impressive, to see the technology behind it, the challenges they face,” said Freed. The overall itinerary for the group was deluxe, a specialty of the AIFL. Steinnon was pleased the trip blended business with a cultural look that can’t be beat: “This trip was fabulous because my impression of Israel prior was Tel Aviv; the conference centers. This trip, we got to drive up to Haifa, so I saw the countryside. Of course, the CyberGym [a joint venture of Israel Electric Corporation and CyberControl, a team of security experts] was wonderful. The last day, the trip to Jerusalem was everything I could have hoped for; to walk through the marketplace, to get a feel for an ancient city. Then just the overwhelming gravity of the history of the world’s religions centered around the Temple Mount. I was very surprised and happy the tour included the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I learned more history that I didn’t know on that part of the tour.” Steinnon also took note of the attention to detail the Israelis give to cyber-tech and security: “The highlight of the whole trip was meeting the security vendors, especially the startups. They are establishing a beachhead in Silicon Valley. My understandings of Israeli startups were reinforced. The differentiator for Israeli startups is that they create a solution to threat factors before they’re recognized problems. In the rest of the world, startups get funded after a problem is acknowledged by potential customers. In Israel they say, wow, this is possible; let’s create a company to address that even before there are hacks.” This is by no means the only delegation the AIFL coordinates; the group also sends students, state attorneys-general, bloggers and more. Rilov sees a bright future for the AIFL as the group stays focused on its mission: “Since its inception, the AIFL has forged alliances that actively and meaningfully strengthen the relationship between the people of the United States and Israel with emphasis on issues beyond the conflict, such as Israel’s great achievements in science, technology, entrepreneurship, business, art, environmental protection, medicine and education.” All in all, this kind of close cooperation, and utilizing writing experts in their respective fields, is a fascinating look at a critical area relevant to all of us. Kudos to these cyber writers, and to the AIFL, for creating such a gathering. Read more at