Saudi Arabia’s war against hackers

Saudi Arabia’s war against hackers
Updated 17 April 2019

Saudi Arabia’s war against hackers

Saudi Arabia’s war against hackers
  • The Kingdom is the recipient of the highest number of cyber-attacks in the Middle East
  • A recent report suggests training is one of the ways it can keep itself safe

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is the target of the highest number of cyberattacks in the Middle East, with over 160,000 hitting servers every day. The aim of the attackers is simple: To cripple the national economy by targeting the online systems of public and private sector organizations.
Despite being one of the more technologically advanced nations in the region, a recent policy study, conducted by the Washington-based Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, suggests that a lack of local training courses, and general unawareness of the dangers posed by cyberattacks, are leaving the Kingdom exposed.
“It was very important to conduct a policy study, to understand the landscape, dynamics and gaps of the cybersecurity measures in Saudi Arabia, and propose recommendations to the government and relevant (parties) for improvements,” said Dr. Muhammad Khurram Khan, founder and CEO of the foundation. “This policy paper could also play a pivotal role for other nations whose national infrastructures and economies are similar.”
Some of the key findings of the study, “Cybersecurity Challenges of Saudi Arabia: Past, Present and Future,” suggest that the Kingdom could improve its local training programs to promote a “cyber aware” culture in the country. “While Saudi Arabia is improving its cybersecurity in leaps and bounds, it also needs to pay careful attention to providing mandatory awareness and training programs at a national level,” said Khan.
“Under the umbrella of the National Cybersecurity Authority, there is a dire need to start educational initiatives to develop the local Saudi industry, by (increasing) entrepreneurship and fostering a start-up culture, especially among young people.”
Cybercrime has caused severe financial losses for various companies in the Kingdom and abroad over the years, but it has also led to intelligence compromises, threatening national security. Government efforts to respond, though, have not always succeeded. With an increasing number of people regularly connected to the internet — up from 15 million in 2012 to 23 million last year — keeping pace with technology as it advances has proven tough.
“Social media terrorism and ‘hacktivism’ (the disruption of services rather than the theft of information) are two more challenging areas the Kingdom needs to work on,” Khan added. “Cyberspace has become the fifth domain of modern warfare, and it is a major national security issue. It is vital to develop local cybersecurity capabilities to combat the most stringent challenges.”
The government has already recognized this issue, working hard to enforce cybersecurity measures even more aggressively following attacks on Saudi Aramco in 2012.
In August 2017, another cyberattack on a petrochemical facility was thwarted due to a glitch in the malware coding. “Saudi Vision 2030 envisions secure and resilient digital infrastructure with high-speed internet access across the country,” Khan noted. “Therefore, the Kingdom needs to boost its cybersecurity.”
Other key findings of the study mention the need for legal, regulatory, disaster and recovery management policies for both public and private sector organizations in the cyber realm, as well as a need to address a dearth of women at any level of the industry.
“In the Middle East, women represent 5 percent of cybersecurity professionals, the lowest number in the world. So it is (important) to attract more, to open new opportunities for them in the pursuit of Vision 2030.”
According to Dr. Fatmah Baothman, the first woman in the Middle East with a doctorate in artificial intelligence and an assistant professor in computing and information technology at King Abdul Aziz University for more than 25 years, Saudi women are valuable assets to cybersecurity firms.
“They can help in designing security systems in education, banking, business and security management, and can act as consultants, developers and managers of security centers,” she said.
Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing sectors in Saudi Arabia, with a market value expected to reach $5 billion by 2022. Some recent initiatives undertaken by the Kingdom include the establishment of the National Cybersecurity Authority, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, and the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technologies.
“It is one of the important topics for Vision 2030,” Baothman explained. “Saudi universities have designed special security tracks, and some have opened new departments, with a new college already established in Riyadh. At high-level national planning, cybersecurity is considered among the top priorities.”
For now, experts recommend more investment in the sector. “Middle Eastern countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, face some of the highest numbers of cyberattacks globally,” said Ivan Dolensky, vice president of international sales at Fidelis Cybersecurity. “Couple this with the shortage of strong talent — estimated to be 1.8 million workers by 2022 — and it is easy to understand why security teams are overwhelmed. In fact, according to findings from a survey we conducted last year, 83 percent of companies cannot manage half of their daily security alerts.”
For Mark Leveratt, cybersecurity advisor to the Defense Services Marketing Council in Abu Dhabi, a strong framework will need to be put in place. “Saudi Arabia has done some work on this, and government agencies are looking to come up with a national security strategy,” he said. “Policies are being put in place, but you need to enact them and create general awareness. Our lives are now dependent upon technology, yet policies and laws are behind the pace at which it is developing.”
Regulating social media platforms remains a problem. “One of the greatest challenges with social media is anonymity, which is why trolling and fake news have been issues,” Leveratt explained. “We may need stronger ways of authenticating real people, which is very hard. But Saudi Arabia is investing in technology now, because they see it as a means of growing their economy post-oil, and they are achieving great things in terms of investment and growth, modelling a lot of what they are doing on the UAE.”


Saudi Arabia donates $3 million to support the Global Partnership Strategy for Education 2025

Education Minister Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh, speaking on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Screenshot/Global Education Summit)
Education Minister Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh, speaking on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Screenshot/Global Education Summit)
Updated 40 min 57 sec ago

Saudi Arabia donates $3 million to support the Global Partnership Strategy for Education 2025

Education Minister Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh, speaking on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Screenshot/Global Education Summit)
  • The announcement was made during a global eductaion summit in London on Thursday

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged on Thursday $3 million to support the strategic plan of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) for the next five years.

The announcement was made during a global eductaion summit in London on Thursday.

“Saudi Arabia will always be a leader in providing support to everything that would achieve development, prosperity and peace for the people of the world,” said Education Minister Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh, speaking on behalf of the crown prince.

“The Kingdom has always attached great importance to education at local, regional and international levels. This is evidenced by the inclusion of education as a main issue on the agenda of the Kingdom’s G20 2020 presidency and the fact that education is a major component of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

He said the Kingdom has always ascribed great attention to education locally, regionally and internationally, which was evident by the inclusion of education as a core topic on the main agenda of Saudi G20 presidency last year, adding that it is also a core component of the Saudi Vision 2030.

“Moreover, Saudi Arabia is the biggest donor to regional financial organizations, such as the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the OPEC Fund for International Development and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa,” which provide support to several countries around the world through financing projects and initiatives in different fields.

He called for international cooperation and joint action to help low income countries and combine efforts in supporting international initiatives and programs that would enhance the economics of education and support educational systems in the beneficiary countries, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Al-Sheikh said GPE aims to improve access to equitable, inclusive education, bridge educational and digital gaps and address all forms of educational inequality, especially in low income countries, all of which are in line with the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 agenda.

As for other Gulf countries at the summit, the UAE pledged $100 million, Kuwait pledged $30 million and Dubai Cares donated $2.5 million, while IsDb $200 million in concessional loans.

 

 


Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 503,827
  • A total of 8,212 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,289 new infections on Thursday.
Of the new cases, 260 were recorded in Makkah, 253 in Riyadh, 220 in the Eastern Province, 100 in Jazan, 76 in Asir, 73 in Hail, 63 in Madinah, 42 in Tabuk, 41 in Najran, 30 in the Northern Borders region, 23 in Al-Baha, and 11 in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 503,827 after 1,299 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,212 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 26 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Saudi Arabia sends medical aid to Malaysia amid rising coronavirus infections

Saudi Arabia sends medical aid to Malaysia amid rising coronavirus infections
Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Arabia sends medical aid to Malaysia amid rising coronavirus infections

Saudi Arabia sends medical aid to Malaysia amid rising coronavirus infections
  • The equipment included essential medical and preventive supplies and equipment
  • The one million doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be provided in coordination with the Malaysian foreign minister's office

DUBAI: Medical aid from Saudi Arabia arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, state news agency SPA reported.

The equipment, sent by the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid, included essential medical and preventive supplies and equipment.

This move comes in implementation of the directives of King Salman, following the request of Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein during his call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Meanwhile, the one million doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be provided in coordination with the Malaysian foreign minister's office. One of the approved international companies will supply the required quantities of vaccines directly from their factories to Malaysia.

Earlier on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia had sent medical aid to Uruguay to help the country in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

The equipment included 53 respirators and over 2.3 million surgical masks, in addition to protective clothing, medical gloves and other preventive supplies.


Saudi Food and Drug Authority seizes 412 tons of shrimp, fake food labels in Jazan

Saudi Food and Drug Authority seizes 412 tons of shrimp, fake food labels in Jazan
Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Food and Drug Authority seizes 412 tons of shrimp, fake food labels in Jazan

Saudi Food and Drug Authority seizes 412 tons of shrimp, fake food labels in Jazan
  • Inspectors found modifications of data and expiry dates of the shrimps repackaged in new containers

JAZAN: Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) inspectors seized 412 tons of shrimp stocks after detecting fake food labels and product packages inside an illegal warehouse in Jazan region.

SFDA said that during the inspection and investigation operations, inspectors detected modifications of the data and the expiry dates of the product, which was repackaged in new containers.

The shrimp products, and packages and data labels were seized, in addition to another 500,000 labels bearing food data and cartons ready for packing.

As a result of the inspection, the authority closed the unlicensed warehouse and summoned those responsible for the facility to hear statements and complete the application of penalties and regulations against them.

According to food law and its executive regulations, the penalty for such violations can reach up to SR10 million ($2.6 million), in addition to a ban on the violator from practicing any food business for up to 180 days, as well as license suspensions and/or cancellations.

Violations of establishments under the supervision of the SFDA can be reported by calling the unified number (19999), or through its “Tameni” application available on the iOS and Android operating systems.

 

 


35,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani housing scheme

35,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani housing scheme
Updated 29 July 2021

35,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani housing scheme

35,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani housing scheme
  • Kingdom's Vision 2030 reform plan aims to raise the proportion of residential ownership to 70 percent

RIYADH: A total of 34,891 families benefited from subsidized mortgage loans through the Sakani self-construction program during the first half of this year.

Run by the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs, and Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund (REDF), Sakani offers Saudis access to land and residential housing via financing solutions to help first-time homebuyers.

The Vision 2030 reform plan aims to raise the proportion of residential ownership in the Kingdom to 70 percent.

Sakani provided various residential products and financial solutions for 111,568 families in the first six months of the year, including 87,896 families that have already moved into new homes and its website and app are designed to simplify and speed up the purchasing process for readymade, off-plan, self-construction, and land products.

To qualify for a subsidized loan for self-construction, applicants must be entitled to residential support, own a residential land plot and have a valid building permit, have a fixed income, and must not have previously claimed housing support. Details are available at https://sakani.housing.sa/product/SC.

The scheme also provides an engineering design service with a range of high-quality, competitively priced options in partnership with experienced engineering offices. More than 36 distinctive and modern self-construction designs are available along with an approved contractor service.

The REDF offers more than 43 e-services for citizens as well as a real-estate adviser app and its online team provides around-the-clock support for those seeking subsidized funding.

Beneficiaries can call 199088 or contact the REDF on social media for information on housing and financial solutions, programs, and initiatives.