Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia approved its National Transformation Program and Saudi Vision 2030, making great headway in economic diversification. Key to these goals is a nation wide digital transformation initiative to improve the Kingdom's technology infrastructure, drive innovation and develop human capital.
Saudi Arabia has already taken great strides with regards to embracing digital transformation. However, the Kingdom's increasing reliance on digital technologies call for robust cyber-security initiatives that comprehensively address potential cyber threats. While Saudi Arabia produced a 2013 National Information Security Strategy recommending the development of cyber policy and legal frameworks, but they are yet to be implemented. This underlines the need for Saudi Arabia to develop a strategic approach to cyber-security that empowers both public and private organizations to detect and deter cyber attacks in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabian adversaries have continually invested in increasing their cyber prowess to challenge the Kingdom's growth and security. The Shamoon virus targeting Saudi Aramco in 2013 wiped out nearly 35,000 computers in a matter of hours and propelled one of the most valuable companies on earth into 1970s technology. In 2015, Saudi Arabia recorded over 160,000 offensive cyber actions a day making it the most targeted country in the Middle East. It does not come as a surprise that most of the targets were the Kingdom's oil and gas, banking and telecommunication sectors.
The sheer volume of cyber-crime in Saudi Arabia highlights the Kingdom's vulnerability to cyber crime. With the meteoric growth of e-commerce in the Kingdom, comes an increasing threat of cyber criminal activity – particularly through fraudulent financial transactions in online banking and retail. To protect both, government and enterprises throughout the Kingdom, the Saudi government as a welcome initiative, has begun investing significant resources towards advancing its domestic cyber-security capabilities.
As Riyadh gets closer to becoming the worldwide hub of cyber-security thought leadership, the 4th Annual Kingdom Cyber Security conference seeks to bring together promising figures from the public and private sector to address the growing concern over securing critical infrastructure against cyber attacks. The Kingdom Cyber Security conference has been a landmark annual event in Saudi Arabia that has in the past witnessed key government agencies and major stakeholders collaborate on issues like cyber-security governance and adoption of recognized information security frameworks.
Information security experts across the Middle East have pointed to the increased stealth and sophistication of cyber attacks. As Internet of Things becomes ever more prevalent, systems and professionals need to be prepared to tackle any potential threat. “In the digital age where driverless cars and cloud, digital implants are just the beginning. Managing Cybersecurity risk is a challenge to all CISO's and information security managers. It is not just they have a lot of catching up to new technology, but they also must act as a business enabler for securing endless ways of storing, sharing, and using data.” said Ibrahim Alshamrani, Executive Director of Operations at National Cybersecurity Center, who will be speaking at the conference. Most security experts agree on the fact that mere preventive measures are not enough to deter cyber criminals, “Cyber threat adversaries are spending more time in networks to allow them to exfiltration critical data” says Ray Kafity – VP (META) at Attivo Networks.
The increasing threat of cyber-attacks to critical infrastructures by organized criminal groups along with the technological advancement in the cyber-security market remains the key driver for the growth of cyber-security solutions in the region. “KSA is the largest market in the region and has always been an excellent ground to prove new concepts for the Arab world.” Jack Diab, Cheif Business Development & Marketing Officer at Cyberia Group said while stressing on the market potential of the Kingdom. While speaking about critical cyber-security challenges in the region, he says “DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) is definitely the most critical challenge today with IoT devices playing a dangerous role pushing attacks to a record of 1Tbps. Another major challenge would be our inability to protect our Security Operations Centers (SOC) against the changing threat landscape due to a high shortage of security expertise among our institutions and inability to keep the focus on incident response rather than operational details.”
Saudi Arabia has made substantial progress towards addressing cyber-threats, however there is still much ground to be covered, all of which will require increased action and prioritization by government and businesses leaders in the Kingdom. The 4th Annual Kingdom Cyber Security conference will be held in Riyadh on the 18th and 19th of April 2017. Attivo Networks Inc. and Cyberia Group will participate as sponsors for the event.
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