The recent hack of Ashley Madison reminds us just how vulnerable society is to cyber attacks. Big companies such as Target, Home Depot, Michaels, P.F. Chang’s and JP Morgan fell victim to data breaches in 2014, and the attacks have continued this year.
Cyber attacks not only compromise the personal information and sensitive data of consumers, but pose tremendous threats to businesses, governments and militaries. The global balance of power and billions of lives are dependent on keeping computer infrastructure safe.
To combat attacks, interest in cyber security companies is heating up and heavy investment is following. Cyber-security companies are hiring by the droves, with some creating hundreds or thousands of jobs every year alone.
"This year we are hiring hundreds of employees for development and deep technology positions," says Dorit Dor, vice president of product at Check Point, a prominent IT security firm.
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To support this exploding industry, several cyber-security ecosystems have developed around the globe, consisting of companies, venture capitalists, talent and expertise concentrated in small areas. These are the top places in the world for cyber security:
1. Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is home to the vast majority of leading cyber-security companies. There is a great deal of venture capital being poured into anti-virus, anti-spamming and anti-hacking software in the area.
Data protection is an exploding area as well, where threats are mounting not only from external hackers, but also internally. For example, according to McAfee founder John McAfee, the recent Ashley Madison data breach was caused by a lone female employee of the site, he wrote in a recent International Business Times op-ed.
Data theft from internal threats is yet another area Silicon Valley firms are protecting clients against.
Silicon Valley’s overall authority and dominance in the tech industry makes it a natural place for cyber-security startups to spring up. Corporations, military and government are turning to the area for protection from hackers and terrorists. In April, the Department of Defense announced partnership initiatives with Silicon Valley companies to prevent data breaches. Companies such as Cylance, Ionic Security and Symantec are headquartered in Silicon Valley.
Startups in Silicon Valley continue to launch, innovate, merge and change along with the demands of the tech industry, and there’s no doubt that founders in the area see cyber security as a huge opportunity.
The combination of Israel’s booming startup scene, severe security threats and large talent flow from military-intelligence units has led to the state becoming a global cyber-security superpower. In the last several years, a cyber-security synergy has formed between startups, multinational tech giants, academia, the military and government.
“There is a governmental focus on making Israel a cyber leader, and the prime minister is very involved. I’m optimistic that Israel can become one of the top two cyber-security hubs in the world,” says Nadav Zafrir, founder of team8, an unconventional VC firm in Tel Aviv that invests in innovative cyber-security companies.
Zafrir, a former commander of Israel’s famed intelligence corps, Unit 8200, told me that the conscripted Israeli military experience has become a major generator of entrepreneurial skills, as people are trained fast, learn how to cope with failure and how to innovate by achieving the impossible because lives depend on it.
There are more than 200 cyber-security companies in the small country, mostly in Tel Aviv and also Jerusalem, with more than $3 billion in annual cyber exports. Leaders include Check Point, CyberArk, Imperva and illusive networks.
3. New York City
The financial district and wealth of businesses in New York City create a large need for improved cyber security in the Big Apple.
To address these needs, security companies have popped up around the city. Many of these companies are focused on protecting the stock market against bank and financial fraud. There’s a good amount of capital going into cyber security in the city overall, but it’s unique position as a financial epicenter have increased data-security activity in this area.
Boston is home to MIT and Harvard. That wellspring of talent has created math geniuses, tech specialists and engineers -- and a blossoming hub of cyber security.
Leading companies including major defense contractor Raytheon, secure-password-solution provider SQRL and security-analytics startup Rapid7 call the Boston area home and continue to raise millions of dollars in funding.
Cyber-security activity in London trails behind the other cities on this list, but for Europe, it’s the strongest by far.
CyLon, or Cyber London, is Europe’s first cyber-security startup accelerator. The company aims to help businesses develop information-security technology and products, helping to grow the cyber-security scene in London. CyLon’s members include CyberLytic, Intruder and Sphere Secure Workspace.
In addition, the U.K. government has launched campaigns and programs to tackle cyber crime and increase knowledge and awareness of the subject.