BGU, PayPal form partnership in cybersecurity research

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and PayPal have announced a new partnership to conduct joint research and development in the fields of big data, machine learning and cybersecurity. It is the first such collaboration between PayPal and an Israeli university.

“This partnership will allow PayPal to leverage BGU’s top-notch researchers and years of groundbreaking research,” said Matan Parnes, PayPal’s general manager in Israel.

PayPal’s involvement in big data and machine learning technology has been supported by its significant research and development (R&D) activity in Israel, starting with the acquisition of Fraud Sciences in 2008 and the establishment of a global risk and data sciences R&D center in Tel Aviv. In 2015, PayPal acquired Israeli startup CyActive, resulting in the establishment of a global security products center in Beersheva’s Advanced Technologies Park, adjacent to BGU.

“The collaboration with BGU will further strengthen PayPal’s global leadership in the use of machine learning and big data for cybersecurity, fraud detection and risk management, allowing us to continue to offer the most cutting-edge technologies that enable safe payments to more than 192 million customers worldwide,” Parnes said.

“We are eager to extend our relationship with PayPal and help them safeguard the privacy of their hundreds of millions of clients. BGU is a recognized global leader in cybersecurity, big data and machine learning research and we look forward to putting that expertise to work to meet the unique challenges posed by PayPal’s needs,” said Dan Blumberg, BGU vice president and dean for R&D.

The 2015 Global Technology Emerging Markets study named Beersheva one of seven top cities for high-tech and innovation. 

“Beersheva has become a global cybersecurity hub in recent years, attracting major multinational corporations,” said Netta Cohen, CEO of BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of BGU. “PayPal’s presence there allows it to tap into this eco-system’s cutting-edge technology and top talent.”

The new agreement extends the ongoing relationship between PayPal and BGU who already co-operate in training, talent development and recruitment.

eBay’s Israel social center

Online auctioneer eBay’s hot new social commerce platforms aren’t coming from the giant Internet marketplace’s California headquarters. They’re conceptualized and launched by a team of 14 young Israeli geeks (and Marti, their “inspiration dog”) on Tel Aviv’s yuppified Rothschild Boulevard.

Marti is the first to greet visitors to eBay’s Israel Social Center (ISC), opened in July last year. Right on the dog’s four heels comes Ron Gura, the former Israeli air force lieutenant who runs the ISC along with his sister-in-law, Maya Gura, and his Haifa childhood chums Matan Bar and Erez Dickman. (Another partner, Guy Schory, now heads new ventures for eBay Inc.)

In 2009, the friends had cooked up The Gifts Project to facilitate online group gifting. After a successful pilot as eBay Group Gifts during the 2010 holiday shopping season, the enterprise was acquired by eBay and morphed into the ISC — a self-contained, offline innovation development center under the purview of Don Bradford, eBay’s social commerce vice president.

Bradford drops by from San Jose once every quarter, and eBay top banana John Donahoe came in September, declaring that “Israel is one of our industry’s leading hubs for technology innovation and talent.” And eBay owns Netanya-based, and its PayPal subsidiary bought Tel Aviv’s Fraud Sciences in 2008.

Although eBay Group Gifts remains ISC’s flagship product, other ideas are finding their way to cyberspace from the whiteboard in the office “thinking room.”

“We tapped into a few other low-hanging fruits on the eBay tree,” Gura said. “Maybe the lowest-hanging fruit was what ended up as Go Together, a new product we launched on StubHub, eBay’s $2 billion ticket vertical.”

The assumption underlying Go Together is that nobody goes alone to sporting events and concerts, yet it’s a hassle to get a group of friends organized and paid up. Go Together facilitates onsite group seat selection and payment. It also streamlines carpooling arrangements, suggests nightspots near the venue and helps nab a premium parking spot.

ISC is also piloting Stuff by eBay. It maps online purchases for up to the past seven years, culling all the info it needs (with permission) from the receipts sitting in the user’s e-mail box. This visual e-commerce shopping profile not only makes it easy to keep tabs on purchases but also makes reselling a breeze because it provides a product photo and prefilled spec fields.

Stuff also generates new product recommendations, alerts about price drops and recalls, and data on payment methods, return policies, warranties, shipping tracking and complementary products.