Ilan Barda is the founder and CEO of Radiflow, a leading provider of cybersecurity solutions for critical infrastructure networks (i.e. SCADA), such as power utilities, oil & gas, water and others. His current position perfectly blends his education in electronics and computer engineering with the cybersecurity experience that he honed while spending six years in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
Like most youths in Israel where military service is compulsory, Barda started his career in the IDF. He was assigned to the Communications Corps, which develops cybersecurity products for internal proprietary use by the army. At the same time, he was earning his computer science degree at the university.
“The good thing about gaining experience in the IDF is that everybody gets a lot of responsibility,” says Barda. “The army here works in a such a way that young people are challenged to develop new things, especially in the divisions where we develop software. This is very different from starting in a company where the junior person is not given much responsibility from the start and it takes years to work up to a position where he is allowed to design something on his or her own.”
Barda stayed in the army for six years, where the minimum length of service is three years. Service members who go into a technical department where they focus on development are required to stay two additional years due to the amount of training they need to become effective in their roles. Barda put in the extra year to see a maturing project through to deployment and to make sure that the introduction into the field was a success.
Fresh out of the army, Barda joined a very small company called RADNet, part of the RAD Group which is also a major shareholder in Radiflow. RADNet was focused on telecom and providing ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) technology to provide high bandwidth communication. Barda was focused on R&D during his time at RADNet.
Barda then held a few jobs with other companies before he joined a subsidiary of Siemens focused on providing the telecom infrastructure aspect of Siemens solutions. During his time with Siemens, Barda moved from the VP of R&D position into marketing and product management activities. He also earned an executive MBA from Kellogg-Recanati at Tel Aviv University.
After Siemens merged with Nokia to become Nokia Siemens, Barda moved on. “I wanted the opportunity to work for a small company again, as I did when I left the army,” he says. “Then I had a fortuitous meeting with Zohar Zisapel, a serial entrepreneur who has started many companies over the years. We talked about his business concepts having to do with Industry 4.0.”
Co-founding a Company
Barda and Zisapel discussed forming a company around the idea of the migration of industrial automation into a more modern kind of automation using more computers, sensors and networking. They evaluated what existed in this market and talked to numerous vendors, customers and consultants in this area.
“We learned about the challenges that are created when you move from legacy industrial processes into more modern automation,” says Barda. “The challenges weren’t just about cybersecurity, but that was certainly an area we looked into. We also wanted to address the integration and the connectivity between the legacy systems and the modern systems. This tied in nicely with the aspects of cybersecurity because both, from our point of view, require a very deep understanding of the protocols and all the ways that legacy devices and modern devices talk to each other.”
Zisapel and Barda decided to form a new company – Radiflow – around building a bridge between legacy and modern industrial systems, with security as an integral component. Here is where Barda’s education and work experience met to form the perfect blend of expertise for the new company.
“In industrial automation, the modern generation is very much based on telecom because it’s based on the same kind of communication. This was part of the revolution for the industrial world—introducing this kind of modern communication,” says Barda. “Part of being able to bring the right solution for the industrial world was, first of all, being able to bring this infrastructure layer of the networking from the telecom side. But then I needed to add other very specific parts. Some of it is understanding all the industrial processes, the industrial protocols and the industrial devices, and also how the legacy world used to work up until that point. I needed to add these areas into my overall understanding in order to build this bridge between the industrial generations.”
Barda says it helped that his career had started within electronics because it eased the move into software. “This was quite useful when looking at the industrial networking world. On the one hand, you need to talk about cybersecurity and aspects that are more related to software and computers, but in the end, industrial is a physical world, so it’s tied more to the electronics side. My expertise bridges those areas quite nicely.”
Radiflow has been in business since 2010. The company provides a cybersecurity solution for modern industrial networks. The solution is built on three layers. One layer carries out mapping of the new industrial automation network, providing visibility on all the assets and a view of the vulnerabilities. The second layer is there to act as a prevention mechanism in the places where the risk profile is high. Radiflow provides an industrial firewall for connections between the network and the Internet, or between a control center and remote facilities. The last layer is a continuous monitoring system that detects anomalies in the internal network. Radiflow makes it simple to put all these protections in place on an industrial network.
On a personal note, Barda is married and has four daughters. His eldest daughter just completed her army service and she was assigned to the same unit where he served so many years ago. “I guess we can say we have closed a bit of a cycle in this area,” he jokes.