American cybersecurity guru Ira Winkler tells The Media Line why online security measures matter, how people can avoid privacy traps and what makes the Israeli startup he recently joined so special
In this ever-connected world where almost everything is done over the internet, online safety is of the utmost importance. And the fact that life mostly runs smoothly depends on how secure the whole system is, says American cybersecurity guru Ira Winkler.
With more than 30 years of cybersecurity experience, Winkler’s resume includes a tenure as chief security architect for American retail giant Walmart, stint as a computer systems and intelligence analyst with the US Department of Defense, seven books on cybersecurity and intelligence, and numerous industry awards.
A shining star in the Israeli high-tech sky, Winkler recently joined local startup CYE (pronounced sigh) as Field Chief Information Security Officer and Vice President.
CYE has developed a unique system for protecting businesses from hackers and other nefarious intruders it calls Hyver, and Winkler has been tasked with promoting it in the United States. It is clear that cybersecurity and privacy are his passion.
According to industry experts, the cost of cybercrime will increase at a rate of 15% annually worldwide over the next five years, and by 2025 these costs will reach $10.5 trillion per year. If cybercrime were a country, it would have the third largest economy in the world after the US and China. In addition, according to the American security company Norton, more than half of all consumers have experienced cybercrime at some point.
It’s no surprise, then, that Winkler believes cybersecurity is “embedded” in our lives, facilitating almost every aspect of our day-to-day activities.
“We’re allowing a lot of things to happen that people don’t realize couldn’t happen without embedded cybersecurity,” he told The Media Line.
“People think of ‘cybersecurity’ and they hear about hacks, they hear about disasters, but they never hear about the day-to-day wins that are critical,” he said.
Winkler draws a parallel between privacy and road safety, the latter, ironically, not something Israelis are known for.
“It’s like driving a car, noting that there are lines on a freeway,” he explained. “These little lines protect people in general. Cars go one way on one side and the other way on the other side; they stay in their tracks.”
And just like driving a car, he points out, cybersecurity is only effective if the user takes every possible personal measure to stay safe.
People think of “cybersecurity” and they hear about the hacks, they hear about the disasters, but they never hear about the day-to-day wins that matter
“How do I personally drive safely when my car has built-in safety features when the road has built-in safety features?” said Winkler.
“Just as I’m aware that the entire internet has good security, how do I stay safe on the internet — which includes maintaining their computers, which also involves traveling to safe areas,” he added.
An important part of this safe online driving is the “how [people] protecting their data, where they are giving their data and so on – and that is an important factor that everyone needs to be aware of.”
He cites the example of people posting their vacation photos on social media without realizing that they are also letting would-be burglars know that their home is currently vacant.
When it comes to companies protecting their data, Winkler points to Hyver’s more sophisticated and unique approach to cybersecurity, which leverages the experience of Israeli specialists who have worked in the field for the Israel Defense Forces.
“Hyver helps point out all possible avenues of attack and — given the people and the skills that we have in the Israeli military — if there’s a way in, theoretically those people will find it,” he said.
What happens then, however, is what Winkler says makes Hyver unique. Once these attack paths are established, “using the tools [and] With machine learning, we are able to figure out where the best spots are for protection, detection and response capabilities.”
Crucial to Hyver’s system, he explains, is the understanding that “you can’t protect everything equally.”
Referring to the ’80s film Stripes, Winkler says a weaker layer of protection — in the film’s case, a stick on a border — can act as a “basic precaution,” knowing that the film’s cyber equivalent is “bunch of tanks.” waits further down the attack path and around the more sensitive data.
You will never be risk free; No tool will ever be perfect, that’s a given. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool, a liar, or a combination of both
“In cybersecurity you can put up a stick that doesn’t do much, but I don’t need that stick as long as I have four tanks nearby. In a very complicated network, you can place the equivalent of four tanks on a pivot, although there may be other vulnerabilities that are trivial to exploit,” Winkler explained.
“It doesn’t matter that she [the hackers] broke the stick because four tanks are waiting for them when they pass,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you can exploit a particular vulnerability as long as people don’t get what they want.”
Ultimately, he says, there is no system that offers 100% protection against hacking and infiltration attempts, and users must accept that as a fact of life.
“You will never be free of risks; No tool will ever be perfect, that’s a given. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool, a liar, or a combination of both,” he concluded.