Cyber security topped the agenda for a number of presenters at Toronto’s first Cybertech Canada conference, held Dec. 9 to link both local and Israeli leaders in business, technology and the start-up world with investors and venture capitalists.
Adapted from Israel’s annual Cybertech conference, which lets prospective investors learn about innovations and solutions in the field, the Toronto event was held at the MaRs Discovery District building downtown, a hub that brings together educators, researchers, social scientists and entrepreneurs.
Conference grew out of close relationship between Canada and Israel
Cybertech Canada was organized by Israeli security magazine Israel Defense and sponsors included the City of Toronto, the province of Ontario and the Toronto Financial Services Alliance. The event featured talks and panels delivered by Israeli and Canadian experts on cyber tech from business, the military, government and academia. More than 100 people attended.
Conference chair Yossi Vardi, an Israeli investor and entrepreneur, said the conference grew out of the close relationship between Israel and Canada, as well as between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.
“Canada’s a country with substantial industries and financial institutions, so there’s political significance to doing this but mainly there’s business significance… From our perspective, Canada has many large financial institutions… From Canada’s point of view, we know there’s a lot of curiosity about the whole start-up phenomenon in Israel.”
Presenters stressed that the current landscape is increasingly vulnerable to threats posed by hacking and security breaches, and that greater risk awareness is needed.
Kellman Meghu, head of Americas security architects for Check Point Software Technologies, an Israeli company that provides hardware and software products for IT security, spoke about the prevalence of hacking crimes and the advancement of hackers’ methods, from credit card theft to larger-scale systems disruptions.
As technological systems become more integrated, hacks to things such as the health care system, airplane control systems or heating and power systems could have grave consequences, Meghu warned.
Robert Gordon, director of Global Cyber Security at CGI, an IT and business process service firm, said greater interconnectivity of devices has created newer, more globalized ways of doing business as well as increased vulnerability.
“People used to access their bank accounts a couple times a week, and now they do it multiple times per day from a variety of digital media…. At the same time, organized crime has moved online and has greater tech capabilities,” Gordon said, posing the question, “Can security [developments] match the speed of innovation?”
Rami Efrati, founder and president of information security company Firmitas and former head of the civilian division of the Israel National Cyber Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Officer, discussed cyber security for critical infrastructure, saying, “We’re going to suffer more and more cyber attacks.”
He said Israel and Canada must work together and invest in protection. “We’re ready to share our knowledge with you [in Canada]… We’re looking for local partners who know the landscape here and can adapt our solutions to their systems,” he added.
Former provincial Tory cabinet minister Janet Ecker, now president and CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, a public-private partnership dedicated to growing the GTA’s financial services cluster, stressed that breaches of cyber security is a topic “any CEO in the financial service world is rightly consumed by.”
She warned that the growing prevalence of financial technology – “fintech” – firms and the use of mobile devices for financial services increase cyber security threats to the financial sector.
“We’re seeing cities who’ve identified this as a priority, like London, New York and San Francisco, who are viewed as fintech hubs… If we don’t push for this [in Toronto], there’s a greater risk of slowing down in both sectors. If we get it right, [these partnerships] can be a dynamic source of new growth and future jobs,” she said.