As organisations in the Middle East increase their adoption of the latest advanced digital technologies to support their digital transformation goals, the risks and challenges of cybersecurity will also evolve, experts at GISEC 2022 said
Dr Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, head of Cyber Security, United Arab Emirates Government, highlighted how awareness and collaboration are key to building a culture of cybersecurity readiness
Cybersecurity should be at the top of the agenda for organisations in an increasingly digital and connected world, experts said at 10th edition of GISEC Global.
Inaugurated by Lieutenant General Abdullah Khalifa Obaid Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, the three-day cybersecurity event brings together more than 300 leading cybersecurity companies from over 100 countries.
In his keynote speech on the first day of the event, Dr Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, head of Cyber Security, United Arab Emirates Government, highlighted how awareness and collaboration are key to building a culture of cybersecurity readiness. “We need to innovate and work towards building the next generation of cyber security professionals. The UAE Cybersecurity Council has a timeline and the plan is to export the UAE’s cybersecurity model across the region.”
“As the world starts to recover from the pandemic, big industry – education, healthcare, oil and gas, aviation, etc. – is going through rapid digital transformation. Their security is our security, and the more they are secure, the more we are secure. Cyber-attacks aren’t bound by borders, so neither should be our approach to private sector and government collaboration,” he said.
Similarly, Jasim Al Awadi, head of Government & Key Accounts at du, also observed the changing nature of cybersecurity as it evolves to meet the needs of residents across the UAE. “At du, we play a major role in the cybersecurity landscape of the UAE because we are right at the core of the business landscape. User behaviour is increasingly changing and residents are increasingly leading more digital and connected lives, which means that data security will be key moving forward.”
He also explained that du has been a pioneer in this space, since the company identified and pushed for early investments in cybersecurity technology. “Cybersecurity defenses have to be tailored around both users and businesses, and we are proud to say that security is in our very DNA. Our Cybersecurity Defence Centre features 24/7 security operations and response services to address cybersecurity risks in even the most complex environments. When it comes to threats in the cyberspace, you have to be ready before the attack happens, and I think that the UAE is on the right track in preparing itself for a more secure digital future.”
Emad Haffar, head of Technical Experts for Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Kaspersky, also shared his thoughts on threats and threat actors in the sphere today, saying: “Security doesn’t stop at any given point. The nature of cyberattacks mean that we have to be agile and flexible in our approach. Organisations also have to continuously push the bar and ensure that they are investing in both technologies and the expertise needed to understand the nature of threats that they will face.”
This is where Kaspersky comes in the equation, he said. “We offer both the technology and the expertise to better secure an organisation’s assets and operations, and help them stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.”
He also highlighted how the world had to hasten to understand cybersecurity during the Covid-19 lockdowns and how hybrid working models have created new vulnerabilities that businesses need to address. “Cybercriminals are always looking to exploit vulnerabilities which means that we are constantly working with organisations to create a dynamic framework that addresses their immediate security needs, while planning a long-term roadmap.”
Haffer further listed some threats that have been identified in the security landscape which include targeted ransomeware and targeted attacks on industrial control computers. Digitisation, he explained, has seen the increased adoption of smart technologies such as AI and IoT, which are often the target of malicious cyber parties.
Aloysius Cheang, chief security officer, Huawei UAE, offered a similar viewpoint when he talked about concerns revolving around cybersecurity for concepts such as the Metaverse. “Government action, initiatives, and security compliance is a great place to start, but we also need a more comprehensive risk management strategy when preparing for the future. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to security, and also, cybersecurity should be the responsibility of all stakeholders.”
He explained that risk profiles change in an environment where “things are not always physical.”
“Today, we talk about the second life that everyone has in the virtual world, and there are lots of variables that we will need to consider such as different actors having different motivations and boundaries, and how verification and authentication will be extremely challenging,” he explained. “This is a conversation that needs to happen as we prepare for the future.”
“Through the ‘Projects of the 50’, the UAE is on track to become a global hub and testbed for advanced technologies and innovation,” he added. “A strong cybersecurity posture and framework is a critical component for the Project of the 50, and at GISEC 2022, we will highlight ways in which the UAE can become a global cybersecurity hub as well.”