“Running a start-up is a journey full of challenges, and I love challenges’, I like to face challenges and to “tackle” them.” From the army to the civilian world, Dr.Oren Eytan tells us about his journey in the cyber field.
We would love to hear and learn about you and your background. Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Oren Eytan, I am the CEO of odix. I have a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering from Tel Aviv University, a master’s degree and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Harrington. I served 25 years in the IDF. The last position I held was Head of the Cipher, Cyber and Security Center, the unit in the IDF’s Cyber Defense Division. This unit is responsible for the issue of cyber defense of the State of Israel in the IDF.
Since retiring from the army, I have been working in the civilian world and I am one of the founders and currently CEO of the company odix, a cyber defense company that develops products to help organizations deal with cyber attacks.
While I served in the 1990s, there was less talk about hackers and cyber security in the civilian world, however, in the army this was already starting to have a serious dimension. The army understood that it was necessary to start dealing with attacks in the field of cyber, so I received all the initial background during my service, in the positions of head of department, head of branch, and up to the commander of the center. I was released in the rank of colonel (aluf mishne), and Head of the Cipher, Cyberand Security Center.
Could you tell us about your company, odix and what is innovative in it?
odix is a cyber company that develops and markets advanced anti-malware tools based on Content Disarm and Reconstruct (CDR) technology for preventive cybersecurity in enterprises of all sizes. Our technology prevents malware infiltration of organizational networks by removing all malicious code from a wide range of file types.
When a cyber attacker tries to find a way to hack into an organization or infiltrate his malware into the organization, he is looking for some kind of platform to put it in. A common way to do this is to hide the malware inside a file of the enterprise., for example, with an Office file, PDF file, or image. The attacker takes the malware (which is also a piece of code), hides it inside the file and tries to insert it into the organization, mostly via email.
At odix, we are able to take this file, and inspect it with a very in-depth analysis called “pip file inspection”, which means diving deep down into the file’s lowest levels and basically breaking it down into its components, put aside anything that does not fit or that looks harmful and reassemble it with only the safe components. Our concept is simple, instead of trying to detect the malware, our technology generates a malware free copy of the file to the user and in this way odix’s patented technology disarms malicious code from files.
This area is also called Content Disarm and Reconstruct (CDR). This is exactly what we do, we eliminate the malware inside the file and reassemble it for safe file usage. I personally like to use the terminology of “Deep File Inspection” because it is deeper than CDR and we can do a lot more things with it compared to CDR. This is why we specialize in handling and cleaning files.
What is the best part of your job and what do you love most about it?
Without any hesitation, I would say the team and people in the company. I have by far the best team. They are all committed, hard workers and we’re having fun together. I enjoy getting up in the morning and getting to work (or on Zoom) to meet them and work with them. This is definitely the best part of my work. After I retired from the army, I promised myself that I would only do things that I enjoyed and today I enjoy every day and I love my job.
At the technological and managerial levels of the company, it is very dynamic. Everyday there are new challenges and new things that need to be tackled, whether it is at the technological, marketing, or at the economic-business level.
“Running a start-up is a journey full of challenges, and I love challenges, I like to face challenges and to “tackle” them.”
Due to the corona, everyone has moved to the online world and obviously other viruses apart from the corona broke out. Could you tell us how the Coronavirus impacted your company?
The first big challenge to face in this new reality of the Corona is the remote work, which is certainly not simple. Today, the majority of my employees work from home, except for a few employees that come on different days. For example, today we are 3–4 in the office.
For a high-tech company it is relatively easier to move from office work to work from home compared to other industries because we simply move the work environment from office to our home via the computer. The challenge is more on the company’s management level and collaboration.
In addition, we hired new employees during this period and in this age of remote work, hiring a new employee is perhaps the biggest challenge of all because the process of absorption and integration to the company is done in a very different way. When a new employee arrives to a new office, he absorbs the atmosphere and the vibes of the office, he learns how to work, he can consult with me and with the other employees, which means he has someone to turn to. He can actually absorb the company’s DNA when he is physically present in it. But when a new employee arrives at the company and works remotely, it is not always possible to absorb the correct DNA of the company only from remote work. This is a challenge we are working on, we have some new employees so I make sure they come to the office from time to time so that they can feel at home.
The second challenge is dealing with the world we are in. If people thought hackers would show some solidarity in the age of the Corona and bring down the attacks, then the exact opposite happened. They have taken advantage of the Corona situation and we are witnessing more and more cyber attacks. The situation of the Corona has created two main trends in organizations. The first, is working remotely, so there is a lot of traffic that travels remotely within the organization. Second, many organizations have stopped receiving audiences face to face, which means people need to convey to their audiences and clients all the information and documentation online.
For example, the Tel Aviv Municipality, which is one of our customers, contacted us at the beginning of the Corona period. As they have stopped receiving audiences at their offices, residents uploaded documents such as parking reports, pictures and resumes to their website. They took us and asked us to “clean up” these types of files from the site before it entered their organization in order to prevent any situation of cyber attack or technological problem of one kind or another.
Another example is the Ministry of Health, a big client with whom we have been working with for many years. As you might expect, the Ministry of Health has been particularly busy since the outbreak of Corona. We had to bring our solution with more and more servers to give them a good solution in order to prevent any cyber attack or viruses’ infiltration. Basically, we are dealing with both the level of remote work and the level of viruses and the intensification of cyber threats.
What is your role as an Official Member at Forbes Technology Council?
Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization that includes leading CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. To be accepted as a member is definitely an achievement. They approached me, talked with me a few times, and interviewed me. Being a member of the council means that I can publish articles that express my opinion or all sorts of ideas that I have, in a large variety of areas, not just in the cyber field. Through my experience and my background, I share my knowledge and thoughts with other people. I take it very seriously and I try to write to them as much as possible.
As a cyber specialist, how do you see our future regarding information security? Do we have a lot to improve?
Just as the Corona has advocated processes of remote work and less accessibility to the office, the Corona has also advocated the issue of cyber attacks. We see that we all use more connectivity, networking, information and file transferring and therefore we are also more exposed. Today, there are a lot of cyberattacks. The world of cyber as we see it today is only evolving because there are so many assets that hackers and attackers are keeping an eye on and want to reach, whether it is money, information, or intelligence gathering. Today, cyber has become a fighting dimension like the mainland and sea as we understand that the whole world is run online and unfortunately, there are “bad guys”, hackers and attackers, whether at the personal level or at the state level, we see it everywhere. In the United States, for example, in the recent cyberattack through the “SolarWinds”, hackers managed to break into the US government offices, its agencies and several other private companies. There are also countries that stand behind it.
The State of Israel is doing quite a bit in this area of cyber protection. Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in the field of technology companies and defense technologies. There are a lot of companies, and start-ups in this field.
Also, at the country level, we have a national cyber array that works very well. It monitors all developments and all cyberattacks, updates the businesses and companies and assists them as much as possible. It is a long struggle that cannot be defeated in a knockout, it takes place over time so we have to be prepared for it and to deal with it. The defense layers need to be built smartly so that they can block future attacks.
As a business owner, do you have any advice for someone who is at the beginning of his path and that inspires to such an impressive career and similar achievements as yours?
Running or initiating a start-up company is a journey full of challenges. On the one hand, every day when you solve a problem, there is a huge satisfaction. On the other hand, when you fail or have to make a decision that you don’t know where it will lead, it can be disappointing.
It is like a “roller coaster of feelings” when one day you manage to solve something, and the day, you can be in a serious down because something happened to the company. Therefore, it needs a special character, it needs the ability to persevere even when there are obstacles and there are a lot of obstacles. It has to be someone that has to know how to deal, not to break down, not to give up. You must be constantly with your hand on the pulse, constantly seeing where the market is going, what people are doing, what is happening in all the worlds around you. Running a start-up is therefore a very dynamic role that requires very creative thinking.
What do you wish for your company for 2021?
2021 is a breakthrough year for us. We recently launched our product called “FileWall”, a registered trademark. The product gives protection to the organizations’ email users of Microsoft 365. In 2019, we won a € 2 million grant from the EU innovative program “Horizon 2020”.
When I came to the EU, I told them that over 60% of the businesses and transactions are made by small and medium businesses (SMEs). In these businesses, there are no cyber capabilities and cyber specialists and they have no awareness of cyberattacks. More than that, over 60% of these businesses, once they get a cyberattack, within half a year they are out of business. I want to transform this with my technology and make it accessible to these small and medium businesses. It is a service that is SaaS, and I developed it closely with Microsoft and today it protects Microsoft 365 email users. We launched the product in September and we already have thousands and thousands of users. We are currently working on a FileWall go to market through cloud service providers. We see that there is great enthusiasm in the market for the product, because of what it gives and for its simplicity.
Thank you for sharing your incredible and inspiring journey! We wish you a lot of success in your projects and a year of breakthrough!
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