Upstream’s headquarters in Herzliya
Upstream’s headquarters in Herzliya. (Upstream)

In addition to automakers, the company works with Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, and collaborates with Microsoft, Amazon and system integrators.

One of the companies using the WeWork space on Clifford Street in Detroit is an Israeli startup that may be protecting your car from cyber-attacks.

Yoav Levy had worked for several startup companies and the executives that purchased them before founding Upstream Security in 2017 with Yonatan Appel, the company’s chief technology officer.

“We had been looking at the IoT [internet of things] world for a long time,” said Levy, who serves as the company’s CEO. “We were looking for the segment that, on one hand, was growing the most, and, on the other hand, had a complicated problem to solve with a real need.

“Today’s vehicles are connected to the internet and can be updated over the air. All sorts of apps and services rely on that connectivity. We help identify and protect against cyber attacks and threats very early, before the attackers can get into the vehicles, and from there, the entire vehicle fleet. We work mostly with chief security officers of automakers to protect their products.”

A United Nations Economic Commission for Europe regulation from last year requires automakers to use a cyber-security monitoring solution to “detect and respond to possible cyber security attacks” on all of their connected cars.

Yoav Levy and Yonatan Appel
Yoav Levy and Yonatan Appel
Preventing Vehicle Hacking

“A very large portion of vehicle thefts today is made with cyber tools,” Levy said. 

“Today’s vehicles are computers on wheels,” he added. “They have wireless connectivity with Bluetooth or a SIM card. We help recognize vulnerabilities and anomalies that indicate that someone is trying to hack the vehicle. It can be for taking control of it, stealing data from it or stealing the vehicle itself.”

He gives this scenario: “If the car key is in a living room and the car itself is in the garage, they take a repeater and a transceiver, receive the key’s signal and transmit it to the car to make it think that the key is near it, or they hack the connectivity and simulate a key near the vehicle.”

The company’s technological approach has made it stand out from the competition. “The other companies took the approach of installing a component inside the vehicle,” Levy said. “We’ve built a cloud solution that can protect vehicles from remote attacks, which are high-scale. Someone from China, Russia or North Korea can attack vehicles in the U.S., for example.”

The cloud-based approach has also made Upstream more immune to the vehicle chip shortage caused by the pandemic. “We have clients that we’ve never met physically. The whole deployment process is remote,” Levy said. “Of course, the chip shortage affects the entire industry. Producing less vehicles isn’t good for anyone in it.”

Upstream’s CBO Roy Bachar
Upstream’s CBO Roy Bachar
Coming to Detroit

So far, the company has raised $105 million in three rounds, including $62 million in this year’s round. Its investors include Alliance Ventures, operated by Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi; the Volvo Group Venture Capital; Hyundai; Salesforce Ventures and Nationwide; as well as financial investors, including Israeli ones.

Upstream’s chief business officer, Roy Bachar, joined the company in 2019. One of the first things he did was establish the office in Detroit, which he had never visited before, not long before the pandemic hit.

“We intend to make Detroit our central hub in the U.S.,” Bachar said. “The vehicle industry is headquartered in Detroit, and it’s very important to us to be close to the main actors.” 

In addition to automakers, the company works with Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, and collaborates with Microsoft, Amazon and system integrators.

The company has hired several local workers, and one executive has relocated to Detroit from Israel. “We are planning to expand into our own office,” Bachar said. “Michigan as a state has all sorts of aid options for start-ups. Their WeWork space was very convenient for us. They had saved us a lot of headaches in the initial process.

“Investing in Detroit is part of the commitment that we’ve made to our clients in the area,” Bachar continued. Indeed, the company’s Detroit office is looking to hire technical people, and specifically from the Jewish community: That’s our layer of Zionism,” Bachar said. “In the cultural aspect, anyone who has worked with other Israeli companies has an advantage. Working at startups is a bit different from corporate America.”

Today, the company has about 100 workers, mostly in its headquarters in Herzliya, Israel, but also in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Those include software engineers, data analysts and cyber researchers, in addition to sales, marketing, finance and HR people.

Levy shared his plans for the company’s future: “We are going to develop from cyber-only areas into additional applications, mostly in the areas of insurance, predictive maintenance, and helping automakers make a better and more efficient monetization of the data from their vehicles.

“Detroit is a very important location in Upstream’s development. Our goal is to build a center of excellence in Detroit that would become a cyber-security and data analytics center for the automotive industry.” 

Previous articleNow Included in Yiddish Theater’s Renaissance: An Entire ‘Jeopardy!’ Category
Next articleNew WSU Book Offers Essays About the Role of Women in Jewish History