October 27, 2020

Digital Age Tools and Strategies are Essential to National Defense and Public Safety Today

Even though I live a world away from my homeland, the ongoing fight against terror in Israel affects me deeply. Just within the past week, the military uncovered a suspicious tunnel being built that would have led right into Israeli territory. In another case, police arrested a man walking through a crowded city in the central district carrying a loaded gun and a concealed box full of bullets — narrowly preventing a deadly attack that the suspect later told authorities had been planned.

As a former member of a small special forces unit, the reality that criminals and terrorists still conspire to cause chaos and suffering, despite our best efforts to root them out, was a stark reminder that threats to public safety will always be a part of life.

Drenched and dusty, we’d carefully glide around corners in conflict zones and enter abandoned buildings to establish to a strategic lookout upstairs to watch for adversaries through crosshairs. The tough part was first walking through the door.

Who knew if they were lying in wait, rifles trained on the entryway for one of us to step inside? Of course, we trained well for these moments and trusted each other completely. But before taking that first step, the silent glances between us spoke volumes.

Intelligence is critical in these situations. If we had a way to see inside those buildings without them knowing, we could have strategized in advance to make our engagements as safe, swift and effective as possible. But back then, that was the stuff of Jason Bourne movies.

Not anymore. Given the connected world we now live in, the individuals and agencies who protect us from criminals and terrorists can see behind enemy lines — that is, with the help of the right technical expertise, experience in the trenches and understanding around the ethical use of technology.

That’s why I was so drawn to Toka, a cyber capacity-building company that develops groundbreaking, lawful intelligence-gathering software platforms. The Tel Aviv-based firm also provides strategic advice to government, law enforcement and security agencies to better defend against terror and crime, and keep citizens safe in an age of evolving threats.

Toka was founded by leaders with unparalleled experience in the strategic, defense and corporate worlds who realize that today’s threats require a cyber strategy that integrates with the traditional ways that these agencies carry out their common mission to protect and serve. After all, tanks and fighter jets aren’t going away anytime soon.

Having served in the military, I know heavy equipment and brute force will always be part of war. But as someone who is now deeply embedded in emerging technologies and trends here in Silicon Valley, I also know that conventional approaches to homeland security must evolve.

Right now, those who would do us harm are researching and buying what they need online, while our governments slowly push billion-dollar defense contracts through sluggish bureaucracies. These agencies must embrace previously unimaginable innovations that will put them back on a level playing field with the bad guys.

Toka is leading this paradigm shift with technology that allows trusted agencies to obtain crucial, real-time intelligence. Indeed, Toka brings a holistic view of cyber-defense that is establishing the company as a trusted ally here in this country and internationally.

Just last month, Toka was selected for an assignment under a World Bank-financed project to identify public sector cybersecurity gaps in Moldova and recommend a strategy to improve readiness. Over the next seven months, Toka will define a strategy for the secure management of government information and data on mobile devices for the EU-member state. The framework will strengthen cybersecurity for public officials who use personally owned devices to conduct government operations.

Earlier this year, the Inter-American Development Bank awarded Toka a contract to advise Chile on next steps for the country’s national cybersecurity readiness and operational capacity building. Following the May 2018 cyberattack on Banco de Chile, Chilean leaders accelerated the implementation of the national cybersecurity strategy approved in 2017 to address these challenges.

Toka’s ability to design comprehensive, cutting-edge cyber-defense strategies and technologies stems from the combination of experiences that the company’s leadership team brings to the table. The team includes retired Brigadier General Yaron Rosen, former Chief of Israel Defense Forces Cyber Staff; Alon Kantor, former Vice President of Business Development for Check Point; and Kfir Waldman, former CEO of cyber and mobile companies Kayhut and Go Arc.

Recently, IT and cybersecurity veteran executive Michael Anderson joined Toka as Vice President of Global Sales. Previously, Anderson was Vice President of both Global Strategic Sales and Global Sales Operations at Check Point Software Technologies, where he had responsibility for launching product offerings and securing global partnerships. Attracting world-class talent like Michael is one hallmark of a breakout company worth building.

This is why Eclipse Ventures led Toka’s $25 million Series B round. We were joined by all previous investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Dell Technologies Capital and Entrée Capital. The funding will be used to further Toka’s efforts to improve its platforms, products and design services for trusted governments in need of an integrated cyber-defense program.

This issue is top of mind at the highest levels. In the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls for the modernization of this country’s defense capabilities “by moving away from costly legacy weapons systems built for a world that no longer exists.” In her article, she puts cyber threats in the same category as the current pandemic and climate change in terms of the dangers they present to the people of the United States.

She also explains how a lack of investment in domestic infrastructure and R&D spending over the years has left the nation — its industries and supply chains as well — vulnerable to “multidimensional challenges” from other countries.

Whether the United States has ignored these investment priorities may be debatable. But there’s no question that our industries and government agencies, from the national intelligence community down to local law enforcement, must adapt to the digital age by adopting today’s most advanced technologies.

They may not have been available 15 years ago, but they are now. And they need to be put in the hands of the men and women who continue to put their lives on the line to protect our way of life.