Being Indian by birth, it is quite obvious for me to have high Indian spirits. In a career of a Cyber Security practitioner having revolved more than 20 times around the Sun, half of it has been spent in working with the ecosystem of Israeli companies. The exciting journey alongside Israeli ecosystem has attributed to the outlook I enjoy in cyber security Industry. When I look through the lens of my experience, India & Israel appear to be two dissimilar nations but having a common intersection. This intersection is none other than one of my favorites, “The Mathematics”. I had a strong urge to write on the contrast of these two wonderful states which was further aggravated when the Prime Minister of Israel on 4th July 2017 expressed in public; his admiration for a great Indian Mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan.
Triggers to write this!
I was attending a meeting with Senior Bureaucrats form IT Ministry in Aug’2017, and one of them shared a retrospect comment of an erstwhile minister where minister stated that “Why don’t we (India) have the Cyber Security posture like Israelis?”. This conversation reminded me of another short talk I had with a senior executive from Indian IT Nodal Body, after attending a great session (Feb’2017) by a French cyber security Researcher. His comment was, “When do we have such researchers in India?” Reality is however contrary to these wishes of the minister and the officer from IT nodal body in India. One of the surveys by Min of IT & HRD in June 2013 published a report on the Cyber Security professionals. It depicted total professionals in various Indian PSU & Govt. bodies with a dismal number of 900 vis-à-vis, China with 125000, the USA with 95000, Russia with 75000.
Contrast between the two states – India & Israel
The outlier position for India as depicted in the above mentioned survey despite having the highest corpus of a young task force is definitely a question of concern. On the contrary, with a population of little less than 8.4 Million (as on July 2017), Israel enjoys the position of a superpower of Cyber Security Research & Product Engineering with a lion share of 20% of USD 82 Billion markets (as per Forbes, in July 2017). Further to reference; 37 of 85 Israeli cyber security startup companies were from the Applied Mathematics department in this year global fundraising & event organized by University of Tel Aviv, Israel.
Views & Observations
In my personal view, it’s the power of Mathematics that Israel has mastered to extract and hence enjoying the cyber & physical security leadership position. Though India has a common intersection with Israel when it comes to the evolution and love for Mathematics, we in India could not extract the “Applied” power of Mathematics and achieved much less than our potential as a country. India is having a history of great mathematicians’ and large masses are pursuing degrees in Mathematics, but owing to our pedagogy system we lack the direction & exposure of transforming this pool of knowledge into the fields of “Applied”. In general practice, the highly potential degree holders of Mathematics in India are kept busy by the system of exams, solving the puzzles of Raw Mathematics and neglecting focus on the Applied side of it. If India has to take the mission of becoming the hub of cyber security by 2025, as projected by NASSCOM and paint a sustainable model of “Make in India”, then we need to change the angle of this common intersection to be in congruence with that of Israel.
Another important observation from Israel is that most of the founders in established Cyber Security companies and also the Startups are the erstwhile officers from Israel Defense Forces or related Defense organizations. The exposure and essence of a real security that they bring to the table by virtue of their IDF experience, besides having the skill to create and advance any cyber security product has an unmatched equivalent. On the contrary in India, we hardly see this pattern in Cyber Security companies of local origin, including that of ours.
A few months ago, I was sharing a panel with an elite mathematician and a seasoned cryptographer from Indian Defense Forces. After listening to his presentation, I told him in spontaneity what I felt,
“It’s a good idea sir! for you to start your own company and create a product or service portfolio with the ideas just shared in presentation”. In a blink of a second, he reverted, “It is beyond imagination!”
citing a reference to lack of resources to fund the same. I defended my point for a short duration but then pondering over our own journey at QOS Technology from Startup to whatever we are today; I didn’t dare to defend my view.
Some Radical Ideas
- The institutes that have made India shine in technology space by the virtue of Applied Mathematics & Physics, like ISRO, IISC and similar should be given a baton to build the scale for maths oriented R&D beyond what they are currently honing. They should be given a responsibility of a curator to identify few universities who are good in Raw Mathematics and have some references of Applied Mathematics & Physics beyond IITs & NITs. These identified institutes should be mentored by the likes of ISRO, IISc to foster real Research & Development for Cyber Security and accreditation should be based on research output, product engineering output, patents filed & registered.
- Further, these newly “aligned to applied maths” universities should also set up the alliance with various schools and run summer & winter training programs for the nationally selected students from 6th grade onwards. This is similar to what’s being run by the likes of Harvard, Purdue, Stanford, etc. Applied Mathematics and Physics should be the mainstay of these exchange programs between school kids & universities.
- Indian Defense forces may set up some startup fund to encourage the retiring engineers from the technology related roles in Indian Defense forces. This fund should be allocated based on selected ideas in hackathons and helps setting up Cyber Security companies as officers don’t have enough resources to start their companies and the current ecosystem is not friendly for them to experiment. It may be a maverick or crazy suggestion but we must consider it or anything equivalent as otherwise there exists a big difference between 2 states, India & Israel.
- While the government is doing its bit in setting up some G2G corridor with Israel, I believe many small & startup companies can set up an alliance in a transfer of technology model with some company in Israel and jumpstart the mission. Like 5 Cyberwar Superpower countries (USA, UK, Israel, Russia, China), India should create a Cyberwar taskforce by virtue of these small & startup Indian companies and give them necessary clearances for building an ecosystem and competencies of intelligence sharing. In Israel, companies like Check Point, VERINT, Morphisec, Clearsky Security, Elbit and other big companies participate with Israel Govt. in mitigating the risk of Cyberwar.
This article has been written by Ramandeep Singh Walia, CEO of QOS Technology.
You can reach him at [email protected]