Behold Israel spoke with one of Israel’s leading cybersecurity companies from a kibbutz on the border with Lebanon.
By Nachshon Ben
Cyber threats continue to become more dangerous and sophisticated and no country has revolutionized defense and protection from such threats more so than Israel. Hosting many of the world’s leading cyber companies and solutions, the Jewish state continues to combat outside threats to its survival on all fronts. Some of these solutions and revolutionary products are a result of smaller companies accomplishing great things.
Behold Israel spoke with Zoe Sages and Oren Dvoskin from Sasa Software, an innovative cybersecurity startup established and maintained on a kibbutz in the upper Galilee region. The company is changing the face of defense solutions for cyber threats whilst remaining committed to kibbutz life and ideology- a rarity in the State of Israel.
Kibbutz Sasa is located in the Galilee region about a mile from the border with Lebanon. A kibbutz refers to Israeli settlements, historically socialist and agriculturally based, specific only to this land. Some kibbutzim (plural for kibbutz) remain socialist in theory and practice, members living, working and socializing on their kibbutz. They were the foundation for settling the land of Israel before its independence and allowed pioneers and immigrants from the diaspora, mostly from Europe and North America, to settle and integrate into the State of Israel before, during, and after the Holocaust.
Kibbutz Sasa was founded by American-Jewish pioneers who immigrated to Israel in 1949 through HaShomer HaTzair, a Zionist youth movement created in 1913. The kibbutz is well-known for its history and success and includes a few hundred members. “We call ourselves the only cybersecurity company in the world that is owned by a kibbutz,” Oren explained. A majority of Israel’s kibbutzim faced economic challenges in the 1980-1990s, causing several kibbutzim to privatize or open their gates for outside business and new residents in order to survive. “The ones that thrived were the ones that were extremely entrepreneurial. Kibbutz Sasa is a prime example of that.”
The kibbutz owns and operates a leading armored vehicle manufacturer company Plasan, which has been providing services and products to the US Ministry of Defense. The company was created in 1985 and provides “safer vehicle environments and survivability solutions for defense and security forces”. Sasa Software was created using technology developed to protect Plasan, Oren explained. “Plasan had to adhere to strict US DoD IT security requirements (ITAR-IT). Despite having a generous budget, we couldn’t find a suitable commercial technology so decided to develop in-house in 2010. Realizing the potential, we created a spin-off in 2013 to create a commercial cybersecurity company. So that on its own is a unique story- a pinnacle of Israeli innovation in a kibbutz environment.”
What really makes Sasa Software stand out is their commitment to the kibbutz movements founding principles of Zionism, community, and equality. Zoe explained that Sasa Software is not like other hi-tech or startup companies that want to succeed to then sell out or “exit”. “The company and employees are pioneering kibbutz life and it really is that spirit that guides our chief executive and co-founder, Yakov Yeroslav.” One of the few socialist kibbutzim left in Israel, Zoe explained that all the employees who are members of the kibbutz receive equal salaries, regardless of their position. “There’s still the same spirit of doing for the community; building a business that protects first of all our community and secondly creating a product that will protect Israel. We are building something from a little kibbutz in the Galilee that is preventing threats in huge organizations worldwide.”
Sasa Software’s approach is unique and noteworthy as it confronts modern and sophisticated cyber threats on various levels to provide leading and reliable solutions. Oren described, “We assume that scanning and detection technologies will fail. If you look at other companies who claim to prevent cyber-attacks, they actually use detection. They’ll look for a known threat or try to run the file to see the behavior of the file, but they all make a decision: Is that file good or bad or is that behavior good or bad? The reality is that it is quite easy to evade that process, so we created a technology that prevents undetectable file-based threats.” Sasa Software’s thorough solutions have led to relatively quick success and the company boasts clients like the New York Fire Department (FDNY), Israeli government Offices, Nobel Energy, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Elbit Systems. “There is a unique differentiation here,” Oren reiterates. “Even after detection, we still treat every file as suspicious and assure that what you (the client) receives is harmless.”
The company can cater to the needs of large-scale organizations and enterprises, and also smaller companies. “We are by far the technology leader to the level of security we have achieved, the level of usability and the number of solutions we have. We can handle basically every way of sending a file or email to an organization and how scalable it is… Our solutions can adapt to both smaller organizations and huge enterprises with an extreme volume of information they bring inside.”
Sasa Software has several products and services, the most significant of them is their GateScanner® Content Disarm and Reconstitution (CDR). Their solution provides an all-around service for any type of file transfers, uploads or shares and provides full protection. CDR is a “new height in security,” Oren stated, giving a description of the products. “It’s a technology that is intended to prevent file-based attacks on organizations. We take a very special approach to doing that. We understand that today’s threats on organizations are very sophisticated and very evasive and that you can’t really trust detection technology,” a mistake too many companies make. “Any technology that receives a file and makes a decision if that file is good or bad is eventually bound to fail.”
The technology works like a “file sanitization” by mixing the “best of breed scanning and detection technology” into GateScanner’s solution, “including next-generation detection technologies” in line with the company’s policy of treating all files as suspicious. The varied solutions and technology are Sasa Software’s “key differentiation and our proprietary technology is to then take the file and do what we call “reconstruction” a unique process of manipulating or restructuring the file so that in the end you receive a new copy that is disarmed or harmless no matter what was in the file beforehand.”
The revolutionary technology is already changing the face of security solutions for any and all cyber threats. The solution is thorough and proactive in combatting, detecting and preventing threats, “while maintaining full usability, fidelity and functionality of the file.” Oren explained that the process “proactively prevents extremely advanced and even undetectable threats,” not just for regular viruses and ransomware, but other exploits that may come with files. “We call ourselves a solution for a world of zero trust,” Oren boasts, “Zero trust literally means you cannot trust scanning and detection technologies to stop threats and on the other, you can’t trust employees to decide what’s good or bad, so we assure to hundreds of organization that files they receive are harmless.” One of the CDR solutions is the GateScanner Kiosk, a stand-alone appliance with a physical enclosure with touch-screen, like a USB. “It is used to prevent attacks from the USB itself and helping critical organizations adhere to regulatory compliance such as NERC CIP-003-7,” Oren explained.
What is next for Sasa Software? “We have enjoyed success until now from the backing from the kibbutz and are now profitable and looking to take it to the next stage. We understand the opportunities in the market and would love to do that with a strategic partner that will help us expand in the United States and Asia Pacific.” The company has a strong presence in the EU (Poland, Portugal and Spain ) and Asia (Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam) and its solutions are used by some governmental organizations in Singapore. Oren explained that “Moving into Singapore was a unique but natural transition because Singapore many times looks at best practices in Israel in many areas, not just security, but finance and education.” He added, “They take the best of what we are doing and many times they can do it better over there.”
But Sasa Software remains committed first and foremost to its home base and providing jobs for kibbutz members and Israelis in the Galilee region. “We want to provide jobs for the kibbutz members and surrounding area,” Zoe explained, “We are building a company with the aim of thriving.” She referred to the kibbutzim on the borders of Israel’s enemies, Kibbutz Sasa being one of them, stating “We are here to protect it. Kibbutz members are pioneers willing to be on the border. We might be a very little kibbutz with a few hundred members on the border with Lebanon, but there are impressive things coming from here.”
Photos: Kibbutz Sasa aerial: Kibbutz Sasa (1), Plasan Sandcat: Plasan Ltd (2), GateScanner Kiosk: Meridian Kiosks (3), Sasa Software team: Howard Smithline (Kibbutz Sasa) (4)