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States vie for Israeli cyber security investment as CyberGym heads downunder

Date: February 20, 2017

State governments are jostling to win a major cyber security investment from the multibillion-dollar Israeli government-owned electricity company, as the business implications of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first Australian visit begin to take shape.

Ofer Bloch, chief executive of the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), was in Australia with the Prime Minister's accompanying delegation of business leaders and spoke to The Australian Financial Review about his hunt for a local headquarters for the IEC's 50 per cent-owned cyber security training business, CyberGym.

CyberGym is a cyber training organisation, targeting government and corporate clients. It was formed in conjunction with the IEC because the electricity organisation is one of the most cyber-attacked organisations in the world. It is forced to defend up to 20 million threats a month.

"IEC sees Australia as a big business development opportunity," Mr Bloch said.

"CyberGym for us is the first step to see how it goes in and to get a feel for the market. Then we can hopefully go forward into other ventures."

Mr Bloch said the IEC was hoping to form partnerships with local infrastructure or engineering companies with complimentary skill-sets to form joint ventures in Asia and other foreign markets.

The company runs courses for IT professionals through to board members and mid-tier managers, placing them in a real-life cyber attack situation and coaching them on how to respond.

Both the Victorian and NSW governments are believed to be courting the Israeli company, with the expansion of another international tech firm deemed a lucrative feather in the cap of either state government.

The Victorian government, led by Small Business, Innovation and Trade Minister Philip Dalidakis, has been vocal about wanting to turn Melbourne into a cyber security hub, in the same way that the state has developed a strength in the medtech and biotech fields.

In October 2016, the CSIRO's Data61 opened a new national cyber security centre in Docklands, near the CBD, which will be joined by Oxford University's Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre and a new Oceania Cyber Security Centre.

CyberGym chief executive Ofir Hason, who was also in Australia to scope out local opportunities, said Victoria's focus on cyber had caught the attention of the Israeli business.

"We read and heard about it and thought it was a great initiative," he said. "Australia as a nation state has the capability to be a cyber hub and it also has the need for this cyber security knowledge. In the past few months we've seen a lot of attacks on Australian critical infrastructure and systems."

As well as setting up a local office, CyberGym intends to employ local cyber experts and has already begun recruiting.

Mr Bloch and Mr Hason are also joined by business leaders from companies such as Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world's largest manufacturer of generic medicines, and clean energy firm Eco Wave Power, as part of the delegation.

Israeli tech listings

Over the past 18 months an increasing numbers of Israeli companies have been setting up operations in Australia, with many also listing on the ASX.

Israeli companies trading on the ASX include nano-satellite company Sky and Space Global, cyber security firm Genome Technologies, data storage company Weebit Nano and restaurant software business Dragontail Systems.

They are also to be joined by Dotz Nano and Emefcy, while high-tech telecommunications start-up Mobilicom is poised to list via a backdoor listing of Public Holdings.

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