By Tova Cohen
RAANANA, Israel (Reuters) - Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems forecasts double-digit growth for its Cyberbit business, which is transforming the technology it has long provided for military intelligence to the fast-growing commercial market. Cyberbit took shape after Elbit's $150 million acquisition of the cyber and intelligence unit of Israel's Nice Systems in 2015, blending Nice's technology designed for law enforcement and intelligence agencies with Elbit's military-focused capabilities.
Today Cyberbit operates as two companies - one focused on government security and intelligence and subject to Israeli export restrictions, the other catering for the commercial market, mainly financial firms and utilities. Both are headed by Cyberbit Chief Executive Adi Dar.
Elbit CEO Bezhalel Machlis described cyber as a major growth engine for the company, which is Israel's largest listed defense company group with revenue of $3.3 billion in 2016. Its Hermes drones, surveillance systems and simulators are top sellers in Europe and South America.
While Cyberbit chief Dar would not disclose how much revenue his division generates, he said that cyber sales were growing by "strong double-digits" compared with Elbit's overall growth of 5 percent in 2016. "We expect that pace to continue," he told Reuters.
Cyberbit entered the commercial market by developing detection and response systems to protect "endpoints" such as laptops and mobile devices, where it competes with Carbon Black and FireEye of the United States.
Dar said Cyberbit is distinguished from its competitors because it is "playing on both sides of the court" -- meaning it provides technologies that can both carry out cyber-attacks and deliver defense.
"We build offensive capabilities for governments," he said. "We know what agents should look for because we are from that world."
Cyberbit is competing in a cybersecurity market dominated by the country's biggest tech company Check Point Software and is seeing strong demand for its cyber simulation platforms.
These create a virtual network and virtual attacks, helping the public and private sectors train staff to tackle the growing threat.
The simulation platforms are seeing strong demand given an increasing shortage for skilled cyberworkers.
Globally, 1.8 million cybersecurity positions will be unfilled by 2022, the Center for Cyber Safety and Education estimates.
In the coming weeks, the Maryland Range training center will open in Baltimore, using a Cyberbit platform to train workers in protecting critical infrastructure.
In February, Cyberbit agreed with Japanese service provider Ni Cybersecurity to launch a training center in Tokyo. Japan estimates it will have a shortage of 200,000 IT security professionals by 2020, when it expects a sharp increase in cyber attacks around the Tokyo Olympics.
(Editing by Toby Davis)