HUBweek Change Maker: Lior Div

Co-Founder and CEO, Cybereason

As our businesses and lives become increasingly connected, the need for cybersecurity services has grown exponentially, requiring companies to innovate and grow like never before. What challenges do organizations face in this constantly evolving market? How are Boston companies dealing with rapid growth and expansion? And what makes this region a great place for tech innovation? We had the chance to catch up with Lior Div, Co-Founder and CEO of Cybereason, on these questions and more in this week’s Change Maker Q&A.

Cybereason is generating some pretty significant disruption in the cybersecurity space. To someone completely green to the topic, how would you explain what your company does and how that impacts your clients? Cybereason sells a software platform that enables us to carry out offensive campaigns against adversaries. Our goal is to protect our customers by turning the tables on hackers making them the targets. Cybereason deploys sensors on our customer’s end points, such as smart phones, iPads, printers, desktops, servers, laptops and other BYOD devices and the wider Internet of Things. The sensors gather details taking place on the devices and Cybereason stops malicious operations in real time. Cybereason’s detection and response threat hunting platform can process 8 million incidents per second across a network in smaller networks of 500 endpoints all the way to 1 million or more endpoints.

Cybersecurity is an increasingly relevant and top-of-mind issue for both businesses and individuals; as everything from our wristwatches to our lightbulbs are incorporated into the IoT, how must your business adapt? How do you stay one step ahead of cybersecurity threats? For years, practicing security meant installing firewalls and other prevention products to keep adversaries out, plugging any holes that appeared and fortifying the perimeter as the attacks grew more advanced. This approach has failed to keep the vast majority of companies safe: no matter how many fences a security team constructs or what defensive measures are implemented, it is being proven time and time again the hackers are getting into the networks. When I meet with companies in Boston, the United States or around the world, I present them with the alternative option and I discuss the house of cards paradigm.

To be successful, hackers must complete a series of actions in a company’s network that are linked together. Fortunately for the defenders, carrying out each of these steps makes the attackers vulnerable and provides the good guys with a great opportunity to intervene. A house of cards is an elaborate construction comprised of many connected components. But when you remove a few cards, the entire house falls down. Now, apply that thinking to detecting a cyber attack: find one or just a few components of the hack and, over time, the entire operation can collapse. Because of our deep understanding of hacking operations and the seriousness of protecting a company, Cybereason is redefining how to root out adversaries by disrupting and stopping their operations in real time. And we’ll do it time and time again, day after day, around the clock.

You were formerly part of the Israeli Intelligence Corps’ 8200 Unit. Is this where you discovered your passion for this industry? What inspires you to continue to innovate in this field, and what excites you about its future? Along with Cybereason’s co-founders Yossi Naar and Yonatan Striem-Amit, we all learned a long time ago that it is nearly impossible to locate adversaries inside corporate networks because prevention products on the market today that are supposed to notify IT staff and administrators often times don’t work. It’s what led us to build our detection and response real-time threat hunting platform. My inspiration is the team at Cybereason from our R&D team in Tel Aviv to our growing team in Japan and London. We were literally bursting at the seams in our old office on Berkeley Street in Boston. We recently moved into a 17,000 square foot office at 200 Clarendon Street, the old John Hancock Building. Today, cybersecurity threats are becoming more sophisticated and the hackers are working hard to stay one step or more ahead of companies.

In transitioning from the public to private sectors, did you discover any surprising commonalities or differences that you feel have led to your company’s success? I was trained with the mindset that the only effective way to stop adversaries is through offensive strategies. I received this mindset through years of training in the Israeli Defense Forces from the time I joined the military at age 18. That mindset and training led to the idea to build the platform we sell to companies today. I saw a unique opportunity to build a technology that could transform the cybersecurity industry and allow Cybereason to one day become a global brand name. Overall, I don’t know how to do defense. I know how to stop offensive operations and there is a big difference between the two.

Along a similar line of thinking, how has your prior experience impacted how you personally operate day-to-day at Cybereason? Do you find that this has an influence on company culture? I learned in the military that ‘no’ wasn’t acceptable and that solutions to difficult operations were always possible. Today, I encourage the team to leave no stones unturned in terms of helping our customers protect their most sensitive information. From the time I was 18 and in the Israeli military I was trained on how to stop offensive operations. It has been an invaluable in helping me build Cybereason and help the company expand.

I’ve read that you place significant emphasis on gender diversity in the workplace, and that equal representation is something your company strives to achieve. What value do you think that a diverse team brings to the table? I have committed to an employee base of 50 percent men and 50 percent women, given equal pay, at all locations (Boston, London, Tel Aviv and Japan). It has resulted in an extremely open, inclusive corporate culture where people love coming to work and value the atmosphere, which in terms leads to them doing their best work. On a related note, one of Cybereason’s early hires happened to be gay, and her efforts added an additional facet of LGBT inclusiveness into my commitment to gender diversity. Various employees have sponsored initiatives such as a Boston-based toy drive, although no single initiative has evolved into a tradition, yet. Cybereason sponsors the Executive Women’s Forum and the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals. Cybereason participates in activities that develop cyber security and technology skills in students and young professionals. It participates in the Israel Tech Challenge, which provides promising tech talent with a six-month technology internship in Israel.

You’ve decided to invest in growing your business from Greater Boston. What attracted you to this region? Does it have unique attributes that cater to innovation or to your industry that set it apart? I’ll admit at first when my co-founders and I were trying to figure out where to establish our U.S. headquarters, Boston wasn’t at the top of the list. We were being drawn to San Francisco and were considering being in the heart of Silicon Valley. But as we dug deeper into discussions and considered what San Francisco and Boston had to offer, we realized the only choice that made sense for us was Boston. Locally, Charles River Ventures provided us with our first funding. CRV also gave us a broader perspective on the benefits of Massachusetts and Boston in particular. There is a tremendous asset in the many great colleges and universities that would provide us with top-tier talent to hire. Couple that with the best hospitals in the world and the direct flights from Boston to Tel Aviv and we were sold.

How do we know Boston was the right choice? First, we have grown more than 400 percent in the past twelve months from 40 employees to nearly 200. We have nearly 100 employees now in Boston and we are actively looking to hire the next 100 in areas such as marketing, finance, human resources, incident response, sales and executive leadership.

What advice do you have for other founders or businesses that are interested in opening up shop in Greater Boston? First, go with your heart and open up your office in a city you are comfortable with. Personally, I love everything about Boston and strive to build the best company in the cybersecurity industry. But you should never be forced into opening your office in a city you aren’t comfortable with. There is so much that Boston offers and so many opportunities to recruit some of the most talented individuals in the area.

What is the best piece of professional advice that you’ve received, and how has it impacted your career? Do not move your family from Israel to Boston in January, in the middle of a blizzard as I did in 2014. My wife and I and our children landed in Boston in the middle of the worst snowstorm Boston had seen in years. My wife and I looked at each other and said ‘what have we gotten ourselves into’? Of course, as I look back at our decision it was absolutely the right one, but I’d recommend starts up looking at Boston to make your move in September or October.

What does success look like to you 5 years from now? For Cybereason, success will be knowing that we are a flagship cybersecurity company in Boston and around the world. We will be known as the company that has a diverse and talented work force and that we are a company that hires the best and brightest talent. We will be known as one of the best places to work in Boston and we will be helping all global companies solve the very sophisticated cyber threats facing them on a daily basis. We will also be known as a company that can evolve and shape it security technology to the threats that impact not just large corporations, but small and medium sized businesses, that are the fabric of our economy.

Interested in learning more about Cybereason and Lior’s unique approach to protecting our connected world? Visit Cybereason.com to learn more.

The HUBweek Change Maker series showcases the most innovative minds in art, science, and technology making an impact in Boston and around the world.