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(INDIANAPOLIS) – An Israeli cybersecurity expert warns defending against hackers will soon cost trillions of dollars — and says that’s not even the entire cost.

Nadav Zafrir headed the Israeli military’s cyberintelligence unit before forming his own company, Team8. He says the worldwide cost of cybersecurity will soon be in the trillions of dollars, a pace he calls unsustainable. But Zafrir told the North American Cybertech conference in Indianapolis the fear of hackers is standing in the way of advances from productivity to medical breakthroughs. When companies are unwilling to upload sensitive data, he says, it starves their networks of the information necessary to advance machine learning and make computer models more sophisticated.

Zafrir says hackers were quicker to exploit the explosive growth in Internet connectivity than the cyberdefense industry, and says security firms are still playing catchup. He says executives need to treat cybersecurity as a central business priority, the same way they monitor their financial books. And he says companies need to recognize they’re going to be hacked, and invest not only in firewalls, but in spotting and fixing intrusions quickly. He says both businesses and regulators are often too focused on precautions that are now years behind the curve..

Zafrir says companies need to join forces with their competitors to cooperate on security. 

Rolls-Royce defense programs president Phil Burkholder reminded attendees that while Rolls-Royce is a natural target for hackers as a defense contractor, any company in any industry is just as much at risk. He notes the recent ransomware attacks on county government computers in LaPorte and Vigo Counties.

Israel-based Cybertech organizes networking events for and about the security industry. Indy is hosting this year’s two-day North American conference. Other conferences this year are in Bangkok, Rome and Tokyo.

(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)