Australia to create national space agency

Australia on September 25, 2017 committed to creating a national space agency as it looks to cash in on the lucrative and fast-evolving astronautical sector. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2017
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Australia to create national space agency

SYDNEY: Australia on Monday committed to creating a national space agency as it looks to cash in on the lucrative and fast-evolving astronautical sector.
The announcement came at a week-long Adelaide space conference attended by the world’s top scientists and experts including SpaceX chief Elon Musk.
It brings Canberra — which already has significant involvement in national and international space activities — into line with most other developed nations, which already have dedicated agencies to help coordinate the industry and shape development.
“The global space industry is growing rapidly and it’s crucial that Australia is part of this growth,” acting science minister Michaelia Cash said in statement.
“A national space agency will ensure we have a strategic long-term plan that supports the development and application of space technologies and grows our domestic space industry.”
According to the government, the global space sector — encompassing innovation, defense, and telecommunications — has been growing annually since the late 1990s at almost 10 percent, driving revenue each year of $323 billion.
Thousands of the world’s top scientists and space experts are attending the week-long International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide.
SpaceX chief Musk is set to give an update on his ambitious vision of establishing a Mars colony.
Also among those presenting is defense giant Lockheed Martin, which is working with NASA on plans to reach the Red Planet.
Lee Spitler, from Macquarie University’s astronomy department in Sydney, said Australia’s space industry currently operated “as a grassroots movement across a small number of companies, university groups and the defense sector.”
“It will help bring to the forefront all the great work that has been going on in Australia in the space sector, and increase the potential for our country to play a key role in the international space scene in the future,” said Spitler.
Australia’s commitment to an agency follows the government in July ordering a review of the country’s space industry capability, with a fuller strategy to underpin the work of the new body to be unveiled next year.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Australia launching its first satellite, the only country at the time to achieve the feat after the United States and Russia.
It has played a vital part in many space missions in the decades since then, with its Deep Space Communication Complex outside Canberra one of only three sites in the world capable of tracking NASA’s deep space assets.
Australian National University’s Penny King, who worked on the Mars “Curiosity Rover,” mission, said the agency would improve opportunities for local scientists.
“Australians will be on the world stage, asking questions such as: How can we best care for Earth? How should we look for life beyond Earth? Where should we go?,” she said.


KSA must become more resilient against cyberattacks

Updated 22 July 2018
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KSA must become more resilient against cyberattacks

  • Healthcare data is of particular interest to hackers because it can be used to blackmail people in positions of power
  • A trained security professional cannot win the battle against cybercrime with just a mere knowledge of IT security

DUBAI: Cybercrime attacks could double over the next two years and cost Saudi Arabia’s economy up to SR30 billion ($8 billion) by 2020, according to security experts who warn the Kingdom is the most targeted county in the GCC for online fraudsters.
While Saudi Arabia is stepping up the war against cybercrime, the Kingdom must invest in training its own security professionals, expand its pool of skilled workers and strengthen its cybersecurity regulation to become more resilient against emerging attacks.
“Based on our relationship with key Saudi clients, we see that cybercrime in Saudi is growing faster than in most of the countries in the world, with more than a 35 percent increase in the number of attacks during the past year,” said Simone Vernacchia, a partner in Digital, CyberSecurity, Resilience and Infrastructure for PWC Middle East.
“Based on our experience in the GCC, Saudi is being targeted more frequently, and the cost of cyberattacks is 6 to 8 percent higher than in the rest of the GCC countries. The Saudi economy provides a more appealing target for cyberattackers.”
Vernacchia said it can be difficult to measure the true direct and indirect cost on Saudi Arabia’s economy each year.
“This said, we would expect direct and indirect costs arising from cyberattacks to total $3 to $4 billion (SR11.25 billion to SR15 billion) for 2018,” said Vernacchia.
“Assuming the growth will not be affected by large-scale events, we expect the direct and indirect impact of cyberattacks to grow up to $6 to $8 billion (SR22.5 billion to SR30 billion) by 2020. Among the major external events that can affect this figure, uncertainties in the region can result in an even more aggressive surge of cyberattacks.”
Vernacchia said there was a lack of willpower in organizations to invest in security measures, and urged them to invest in the manpower and technology that will enable them to become more resilient in the face of growing attacks. While Saudi is “not completely unprepared,” most businesses in the Kingdom are investing in cybersecurity far less than the leading countries.
“We see the average investment in cybersecurity awareness and capability to be on average about 60 percent lower in Saudi Arabia than what is invested by organizations of the same size in leading countries.
“This is a result of limited regulatory requirements for private entities, as private companies are trading the immediate benefit of spending less on cybersecurity protection with the high cost of one — or more — potentially highly effective targeted cyberattacks.”
An increase in cybersecurity regulation could also strongly limit the growth of cyberattacks, Vernacchia said. “The limited amount of cybersecurity-related regulation is a key issue, as it’s having two key effects. On one hand, some businesses are underestimating their exposure, and thus not investing in cybersecurity as they should — de facto increasing their risk. Other businesses are waiting for regulation to be drafted before investing in cybersecurity, in fear that the organization, processes and solutions they would implement may not be in line with the regulatory requirements which are coming.”
Amir Kolahzadeh, CEO of cybersecurity firm ITSEC, said Saudi-based business are reluctant to invest in adequate cybersecurity measures as they fail to recognize the long-term value of the initial investment needed.
“The core issues that every business is looking at in cybersecurity is a line item expense instead of looking what the cost would be if there is a breach,” he said. “This is a worldwide epidemic at the moment. However, it is much more evident in the GCC due to lack of truly trained IT security professionals who can show the business acumen, foresight and the communication skills to demonstrate that potential losses are exponentially greater than the cost of securing the enterprise.”
David Michaux, of online security company Whispering Bell, said as Saudi Arabia forges ahead with its knowledge-based economy and becomes “more online,” the potential for attacks will grow.
With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 of a “knowledge economy,” growth in the ICT will be fueled by digitization — including IT innovation, big data projects, smart city initiatives, and cloud-based services. In addition, Saudis are among the most active social media users in the world — and largest adopters of Twitter in the Arab region.
Mathivanan V., vice president of ManageEngine, said while Saudi Arabia has taken “significant steps” to achieve cyber-readiness, including the introduction of the National Authority of Cyber Security which aims to enhance the protection of networks, IT systems, and data through regulatory and operational tasks, he warned that sophisticated cyberthreats have evolved in the wake of digitization and urged companies to better employ sustainable IT practices and state-of-the-art cybersecurity tools.
“A trained security professional cannot win the battle against cybercrime with just a mere knowledge of IT security,” he said. “What he needs is the right weapon to master the art of cybersecurity.”
James Lyne, head of R&D at SANS Institute, which specializes in information security, said given Saudi Arabia’s visible agenda to lead the charge in smart cities, connected industry and to develop a knowledge economy, it is key that the Kingdom also has an equally ambitious cybersecurity skills strategy.
“A gap between the two will lead to substantial attacks and reputation damage for the region,” he said.
“Firstly, Saudi Arabia needs more cybersecurity practitioners overall — particularly with the ambitious development projects being undertaken as part of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision. Secondly, existing cybersecurity practitioners also have to continue to sharpen their skills to increase the depth of their expertise.”
He urged companies not to ignore the fact that employee behavior is a weak link in cybersecurity and is becoming an increasing source of risk.
“Many of the breaches that occur still take advantage of basic cybersecurity failures and, as such, education has to be a huge part of the solution. Everyone in Saudi Arabia has a role to play in making sure that cybercriminals get fewer clicks on their nasty emails, documents and phishing links.”
He said it was difficult to truly grasp the overall financial figures associated with cybercrime.
“That said, even the tip of the iceberg that we do see is very substantial and it has already been demonstrated that Saudi Arabia is a major target. Given attackers have already had success compromising facilities, it is extremely likely other cybercriminals will follow.”