When Aviva Zacks of Safety Detective had the opportunity to interview Dr. Lior Tabansky, head of research development, Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center, Tel Aviv University, she found out that solutions will not come only from law or technology—it has to be a much more comprehensive approach.
Safety Detective: Can you tell me a little bit about your background including how you got into cybersecurity?
Lior Tabansky: My academic field is international security, technology, and warfare. Parallel with graduate studies, I have been working in system administration. I have 15 years of hands-on IT experience and about 10 years of cyber as it relates to international conflict.
SD: What is your role today?
LT: I am the head of research development at the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center. We are an organization that facilitates university research in areas related to cybersecurity. And we do this through the operation of a fund and allocating grants to researchers.
SD: What interests you about cybersecurity?
LT: If you look at conventional or kinetic warfare since the 70s, computers transformed warfare; for example, the way that the United States-led Coalition fought in Iraq in ’91 demonstrated the ability to strike targets with precision and from a stand-off range. Implementing ICTs enabled a great advantage: destroying the enemy’s forces without too much risk to your own forces. Now for a couple of decades, one could reach the enemy’s targets and deliver effects through cyber, without the need to go there physically. This can be an even greater revolution in security affairs.
SD: What are the current cyber threats that should concern individuals, governments, and militaries?
LT: I stress the anomaly in that our defense organizations do not protect the private sector, or the citizens, from foreign adversaries who can harm them through cyber. This is the situation throughout the West. For instance, when North Korea wanted to signal the United States that it didn’t accept certain things such as a movie, they went on and breached Sony Pictures Entertainment in the USA. And even though the US intelligence knew about the intent, the US did not protect SPE or its 3,000 employees from various harm North Korea inflicted.
SD: How do you see cybersecurity developing in the next five years?
LT: There are a lot of positive developments that I see. Artificial intelligence will help develop new business models and new ways that will mitigate or even eliminate much of the risk that we have in the current environment.
SD: How will the proliferation of IoT affect cybersecurity?
LT: It’s important that we don’t repeat the same mistakes that have been made in traditional IT. It will depend on the role that international organizations and governments will play in the design and perhaps even the regulation of IoT technology.
SD: So, do you think there’s hope for us?
LT: It depends whether companies will be able to adapt faster when things don’t work as expected. It appears that in IoT you can perhaps fix things on the go like we do all the time in regular IT. In regular IT, we haven’t seen too much catastrophic damage from cyberthreats, despite all the doomsday prophecies. That’s the hope more or less.
More importantly, we have to tackle cybersecurity in a comprehensive way. This is why our research strategy in Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center, Tel Aviv University is interdisciplinary: we encourage and fund social science, humanities, law, behavioral and health science together with STEM.