The Wise, The Merchant, The Warrior: HackerU Prepares Cyberspace Fighters
A 91-year-old diamond trader decided to finance a cybersecurity school: “It’s a productive investment — he says — but it’s not just a matter of money.”
Arturo Di Corinto
“At the time of the kibbutz we relied on tanks to defend ourselves and fight, but today a computer can defeat even a tank.” This is Pinchas Fouzailov, the 91-year-old president of the HackerU. As one of the founders of the Israeli diamond industry, Pinchas owns an entire skyscraper in Ramat Gan, on the outskirts of the city. He dedicated three of his plans to training young cybersecurity professionals that will “make the country safer.”
A spry old man, Pinchas tackles the topic of computer security with the look of a YouTuber and told Repubblica how it all started. “If we are good with computers it is because we are used to defending ourselves. I have lived through the period of bombs and attacks; because of our neighbors we must be prepared at all times.” And to the question of “what are the levers of success”, he tells us:” We Jews, and Israelis at large, are used to looking at problems from different angles, just like young hackers do to find the best solutions in order to defend and attack at the right time. But I don’t like war. War complicates business.”
HackerU is the name of the global training school for IT experts. It has hundreds of teachers and thousands of students, now working in the industry. “Education is the first thing”. As Daniel Adani, the Vice President of HackerU tells us: “our students come from all over the world to learn, but the teachers come from both Israeli universities of excellence and army intelligence units. And it is the army that sends their soldiers to learn the secrets of electronic war to fight viruses and cyber attacks.
“From zero to hero” is the motto of the school that allows anyone, of any age, to participate in its courses. “Not all our young people have time to go to university and graduate in engineering or computer science, so we want to give them this opportunity. At the end of an 18-month course, they can claim a diploma. And in this field a good job is assured, “says Pinchas.
HackerU also collaborates with some of the major Italian universities, although it cannot be said which. Their courses are “frontal”, in class at Ramat Gan, at a distance, ie. online, and on the spot -wherever they require them. “For example,” — says Adani — “we have a good presence in Africa where we train the Ethiopian, Kenyan and Tanzania police. But we are also present in South America and Europe.”
In a small room, we find a young blonde girl who fights with a sort of scalpel against a microcircuit and, next to her, another young man, robust and muscular, who invites us to sit down to talk: he is the head of security at HackerU. Beyond the glass, a dozen screens give a glimpse of the lights of what appear to be digital battles, with the trails of cyber-missiles fired from one end of the ocean to the other. “It is not an exercise — Ilan tells us — they are monitoring what is happening in the world.” But how did you get here? Trivial question. “I am a hacker, therefore, I am here. Like all hackers, I started playing with computers, and for this reason for us, the game has become a teaching tool. We also play naval battles, only the weapons are cybernetic and nobody gets hurt. If you mess up, you start again until you get good at it.”
It is not the only place in Israel where young people are prepared for jobs at Israeli embassies and companies in the world. Pinchas Fouzailov is a piece of Israeli history precisely because together with his brothers Ben and Zion, he built a commercial network all over the world, from The United States to Japan and not just to sell diamonds, but also to spearhead diabetes research with the company, Betalin Therapeutics Ltd; which has received awards and recognition even in China.
Pinchas is a merchant, but he has understood that technological innovation is at the base of most of our future challenges. For this reason “Investing in cybersecurity is a cost that soon everyone will be willing to accept because it guarantees great returns.” Almost 15 percent of all global investments in information security land in Israel, in Silicon Wadi, the “Silicon Valley.” That strip of land is home to cybersecurity startups overlooking the sea of the prosperous and multi-ethnic Tel Aviv.
This story has been originally published in italian by La Repubblica: