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.


Climate change inspires prestigious Saudi art exhibition

We hope visitors would be inspired by the works they see, says Hamza Serafi, head of the curatorial committee at the Saudi Art Council. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 29 January 2020

Climate change inspires prestigious Saudi art exhibition

  • The seventh ‘21,39 Jeddah Arts’ event addresses the global environmental crisis under the title ‘I Love You, Urgently’

JEDDAH: The seventh 21,39 Jeddah Arts is back in town, addressing the global environmental crisis under the title “I Love You, Urgently.” Based at the Saudi Art Council’s hub in Jeddah, it parades the work of local artists.

Muhammad Hafiz, vice-chairman of Saudi Art Council, emphasized the importance of art in complementing societies, and how it is now being carried out by the state. He said: “This year we’re supported by the Ministry of Culture, who have kindly reached out to support us.”
Maya El Khalil, the curator of “I Love You, Urgently” paid tribute to Frei Otto, the masterful architect who has painstakingly contributed to memorable sights in the Kingdom and has been the inspiration for this year’s concept.
“In our part of the world, for the time being, these concerns (sustainability of the environment) aren’t a priority,” she said during the press conference to launch the exhibition.
 “It was interesting to see the artists go through a long process of research and study, building their awareness of their surroundings,” she said.
Hamza Serafi, head of the curatorial committee at the Saudi Art Council, said that they hoped visitors would be inspired by the works they see.
He thanked the curator for choosing Frei Otto, one of the pioneers of biomimicry — the imitation of nature.
“With that humane concept, the artists started expressing their feelings about how they see nature; some went into architectural forms, filming, music; it’s really diverse,” he said.
Visual artist Marwah Al-Mugait is one of 21 artists who have participated in the main exhibition this year, making her third appearance thanks to the Saudi Art Council.
Al-Mugait’s creation can be sensed upon entry to the cavernous venue, where women’s chants can be heard. Upon inspection, behind a lavish white curtain, a video filmed in Riyadh is playing across a curved wall where a group of women come together in self-expression and self-preservation, before they huddle against an ancient tree and embrace it.
“This year is exceptional because of the theme; I’m so happy and honored to work with Maya El Khalil, who presented the concept of biomimicry,” Al-Mugait told Arab News.

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The exhibition hosts visits from schools organized by the Ministry of Education.

Al-Mugait began to work toward unseen elements to display “multi-layered emotional details” in her work in order to depict the senses rather than what meets the eye. Initially, the Riyadh-based artist felt anxious about applying this new concept to her background in film and performance.
 “Throughout my research, I was driven towards the topic of the defense mechanisms of species, plantations and human beings, specifically Mimosa pudica, which closes in on itself whenever a predator is trying to touch it,” she explained.
Al-Mugait also drew inspiration from the way bees deal with predators who attack their hive, during which they perform a shimmering wave collectively.
As she struggled to translate these mechanical moves into a body language that conveys how humans can defend themselves from inner and outer harm, psychological harm and abuse, she came across Movers in Riyadh, and two of their choreographers helped her shape her performance.
Al-Mugait chose 14 female dancers to depict empowered women, two Jamaican-British and 12 Saudis. “I wanted to trace that power which you cannot see with my camera, along with their interaction with nature. That moment when they hug the tree at the end is similar to the one you would get from a mother.”
During the first week of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, a forum will be held with talks and panel discussions by the curator El Khalil and the artists of “I Love You, Urgently.”
The exhibition is open to the public, and also hosts visits from schools as part of educational trips orchestrated by the Ministry of Education, said Hafiz.
The event will run from January 28 to April 18, with further exhibitions taking place besides “I Love You, Urgently,” including “Architecture of Tomorrow: Frei Otto’s Legacy in Saudi Arabia,” which pays tribute to the inspiration behind this year’s theme, and “Sculpting Spaces — Architectural Desert Dwellings for AlUla”.
The Saudi Art Council is a non-profit initiative founded in 2014 by a number of art enthusiasts, and has been supportive of local artists and art movements in the Kingdom.