Experts: Creation of Saudi cybersecurity center boosts internet user confidence

Participants at the Information Security Conference in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN photo)
Updated 22 November 2017

Experts: Creation of Saudi cybersecurity center boosts internet user confidence

RIYADH: Participants at the Information Security Conference, which concluded on Tuesday in Riyadh, strongly felt that the establishment of the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) provided added confidence and security to internet users at all levels.
The Information Security Conference in the Middle East and North Africa region hosted over 400 cybersecurity professionals, students and sponsors, who discussed the factors threatening the internet, especially in relation to economic, medical, governmental, financial and other services.
Amir Kannan, the general manager of Kaspersky Lab in the Middle East, said the NCSC, headed by Dr. Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, would keep tabs on all intrusions that threaten cybersecurity. He said Saudi Arabia has given utmost priority to cybersecurity and it is evident from the establishment of the NCSC.
Referring to a recent study, Kanaan pointed out that targeted attacks have become one of the fastest growing threats in 2017. Sixty-four percent of respondents in the study conducted in Saudi Arabia agreed that threats are becoming more complex and it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between generic and complex attacks.
He said Kaspersky Lab has drawn attention to the evolving nature of cyber threats, which are becoming a major problem for businesses.
Of the respondents from Saudi Arabia, 39 percent have stated that they are starting to realize that a security breach will happen to them at some point, while an alarming 44 percent are still unsure of the most effective strategy to respond to these threats
Stressing that technology is one of the most important parts in this mix, he said there is a clear need for security solutions that go beyond prevention and provide a complete package, also adding a detection and response functionality. Citing an example, he said, 45 percent of the Kingdom’s businesses agree that they need better tools to detect and respond to advanced persistent threats (APTs) and targeted attacks.
The CEO of VirtuPort and the organizer of the conference, Samer Omar, said the conference achieved its objectives of promoting an advanced society in the technology sector and enhancing opportunities for senior leaders and thinkers in the field of electronic information security to meet with government officials and representatives of specialized sectors in the Kingdom.
George Patsis, chief executive officer of Obrela, noted that global spending on information protection will rise by $117.4 billion by 2019, and cybersecurity spending between 2017 and 2021 will reach $1 trillion.
Many international companies specialized in combating cyber threats and information security attended the conference. Representatives of those companies stressed the importance of promoting effective proactive measures that will systematically reduce cybersecurity threats through the management of professionally qualified units.
Saudi Arabia’s security officials said on Monday that the country had been targeted as part of a wide-ranging cyber espionage campaign observed since February against five Middle East nations as well as several countries outside the region, reported Reuters.
The NCSC said in a statement the Kingdom had been hit by a hacking campaign bearing the technical hallmarks of an attack group dubbed “MuddyWater” by US cyber firm Palo Alto Networks.
Palo Alto’s Unit 42 threat research unit published a report last Friday showing how a string of connected attacks this year used decoy documents with official-looking government logos to lure unsuspecting users from targeted organizations to download infected documents and compromise their computer networks.
The Saudi security agency said in its own statement that the attacks sought to steal data from computers using email phishing techniques targeting the credentials of specific users.
The NCSC said they also comprised so-called “watering hole” attacks, which seek to trick users to click on infected web links to seize control of their machines.
Saudi Arabia has been the target of frequent cyberattacks, including the “Shamoon” virus, which cripples computers by wiping their disks and has hit both government ministries and petrochemical firms.
Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, was hit by an early version of the “Shamoon” virus in 2012.

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.

The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.