MENA region must step up cybersecurity to combat growing hacker threats

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VirtuPort CEO Samer Omar gestures during his presentation. (Photos/Supplied)
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VirtuPort CEO Samer Omar speaking at MENA Info Security Conference in Riyadh
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Visitors at MENA Information Security Conference exhibition in Riyadh
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Visitors at MENA Information Security Conference exhibition in Riyadh
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Visitors at MENA Information Security Conference exhibition in Riyadh
Updated 11 September 2019

MENA region must step up cybersecurity to combat growing hacker threats

  • Challenges in cybersecurity changing dramatically
  • Training and technical sessions important in refreshing knowledge of delegates

RIYADH: Digital technology experts on Monday called for increased efforts to combat the growing threat of cyberattacks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Delegates attending a major international conference on the issue, being staged in the Saudi capital, were told that education and awareness were critical to strengthening the cybersecurity culture.
Opening the 7th edition of the MENA Information Security Conference in Riyadh, VirtuPort CEO Samer Omar stressed the importance of this year’s meeting in helping to tackle the “unprecedented challenges” currently facing the data sector.
“The conference will play an integral role in sustaining the communications between senior information security professionals in the MENA region, and contributing to strengthening the necessary cybersecurity culture such as compliance, legislation, governance and cloud security,” he said.
Under the title “Cyberspace, The New Frontier: Deception, Orchestration and Blackholes,” the conference will address how deception technology has greatly improved by being active in luring and baiting attackers to deception environments and creating decoys.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Omar said: “The conference is part of VirtuPort’s efforts to deliver cybersecurity through leadership. We are strong believers that the way to make change in cybersecurity is to change people by bringing them together, sharing information and creating a unique experience so that attendees truly benefit and take something back that is actionable in their workplace.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Under the title “Cyberspace, The New Frontier: Deception, Orchestration and Blackholes,” the conference will address how deception technology has greatly improved by being active in luring and baiting attackers to deception environments and creating decoys. 

• Cyber Saber Hackathon is an educational component combined with entertainment to create a complex and advanced smart city which models the real world with smart devices.

• Hackathon attracted students from throughout Saudi Arabia to try their skills at hacking and defending a model smart city with the aim of developing offensive and defensive capabilities for positive use.

“We also combined it (the conference) with our sister offering called Cyber Saber Hackathon. This is our educational component combined with entertainment to create a complex and advanced smart city which models the real world we are living in with smart devices, IoT (the Internet of Things) and the risks to those devices if they are not secured correctly,” he added.
Hackathon attracted students from throughout Saudi Arabia to try their skills at hacking and defending a model smart city with the aim of developing offensive and defensive capabilities for positive use, Omar said. “By doing this we hope that the students will look over to the conference and find professionals, make good careers and do things in the right way.”
On the growing threats to cybersecurity, Omar said: “There is no such thing as 100 percent security, or 100 percent privacy. We have to understand that we live in a world where everything is being digitized and there is no silver bullet or absolute insecurity.
“However, when the proper controls, procedures and activities by the individuals responsible for securing and using data and transmitting it, is done correctly, you can achieve a very high percentage of reliability and security for your data, and privacy,” he added.
The technology chief said the challenges in cybersecurity were changing dramatically, which was why the conference’s training and technical sessions were important in refreshing
the knowledge of delegates.
Asked if cybercrime laws were strong enough, Omar said: “The cybersecurity regulations in Saudi Arabia are maturing every year. The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) had regulations years ago that touched on cybersecurity and cyber-relevant rules and penalties that helped in dealing with it.”
The establishment of the Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) was a critical and positive step in creating improved cybersecurity governance and standards, he added.
“I am very happy with the way that organizations like the NCA and the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones are bringing Saudis together to tackle the issue and educate people.”

The cybersecurity regulations in Saudi Arabia are maturing every year. The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) had regulations years ago that touched on cybersecurity and cyber-relevant rules and penalties that helped in dealing with it.

Samer Omar، VirtuPort CEO

On social media, Omar predicted more regulation around data protection and privacy in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia recently announced the establishment of an artificial intelligence (AI) and data management authority to protect the privacy of information.
Scott Manson, managing director of computer security firm McAfee, told Arab News there had been “amazing progress” in combating cybercrime through laws and regulation. He said education and awareness was extremely important in highlighting to users of social media apps the risks of attacks from hackers.
Speaking on deception-based threats, Bahi Hour, Attivo Networks’ SE director for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, said that 87 percent of breaches took place in just minutes. Only 3 percent were discovered as quickly, while 68 percent of breaches took months or years to be discovered.
“Despite the misconception that deception is hard to deploy, the reality is machine learning, centralized management, and AI make this easy,” said Hour.
“Another widely held misconception is that deception won’t work against real attackers, but the reality is that accurate, realistic, and authentic deception technology can fool even the most experienced attackers.”
Hussam Abu-Rida, technical lead for Saudi Arabia at IT security firm Trend Micro, said that the increasing sophistication of threats had made it harder than ever for IT managers to protect their organizations.
Director of Cisco Customer Experience, David Williamson, said many companies remained hesitant about introducing automated processes and controls.
With 5G networks now entering markets around the globe, Lee Chen, founder and CEO of A10, said the most common challenge facing 5G technology was security.


Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

Updated 32 min 33 sec ago

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

  • We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season, says GEA CEO Amr Banaja

RIYADH: Fireworks, concerts, festivals and international performances will be among the highlights of the 89th Saudi National Day celebrations this year.

The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has announced a season of record-breaking events for the annual celebration.

At a press conference in Riyadh on Sunday, GEA CEO Amr Banaja said that Saudi citizens and residents can enjoy a number of entertainment activities planned across 13 regions of the Kingdom as part of the National Day season being supervised by the GEA from Sept. 19 to 23.

“The GEA is proud to oversee the Saudi National Day Season activities by launching a unified identity that brings together the society under “Himma Hatta El-Qimmah,” Banaja said, inspired by the words of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The Saudis’ strength is like that of the Tuwaiq mountain.”

The GEA was proud to be overseeing the occasion, Banaja said. “We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season befitting this dear country,” he said.

“This year fireworks celebrations will continue for several days where more than 700,000 shots will be fired at an altitude of up to 300 meters, accompanied by music,” he said.

Celebrations will be held in all regions during the season, and visitors will be able to enjoy a range of activities that reflected the unity of the nation and the cohesion of the people and leadership.

“Distinctive international shows designed especially for the National Day will be held in Riyadh from Sept. 21-23,” he said.

Fireworks will light up Jeddah over Al-Hamra Corniche accompanied by sound and light effects and laser shows.

At the five-day Dhahran Exhibition in Dammam starting on Sept. 19, the world’s largest theatrical producer “Cirque du Soleil” will present a specially designed show for Saudi National Day.

Forty artists will present 14 shows of acrobatics, sports, music, and dance. Eight concerts will also be held in a number of regions where, besides international stars, Saudi and Gulf artists will present patriotic songs.

The concerts will begin on the first day of the season on Sept. 19 at Al-Jouf University Stadium in Sakaka with performances by Khaled Abdulrahman and Nabil Shuail.

The next day, a concert will be held at King Khalid Sport City in Tabuk staged by artists Abdullah Al-Rowaished and Aseel Abu Bakr.

On Sept. 21, Majid Al-Mohandes and Dalia Mubarak will perform at Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Stadium in Hail.

On Sept. 22, two concerts will be performed at King Abdullah Sports City in Buraidah by artists Rashid Al-Majid and Balqees Fathi; the second at Prince Sultan Cultural Center in Jazan by “The Artist of Arabs” Mohammed Abdo and Turki.

On Saudi National Day (Sept. 23), three concerts will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Thousands will gather at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh to listen to singers Hussein Al-Jasmi and Abadi Al-Jawhar.

In Jeddah, Rabeh Saqr and the artist Waad will perform at King Abdullah Sports City, while in Dammam, and in the Green Halls in Riyadh, Kuwaiti singer Nawal and the artist Ayed will entertain the audience.

Five forums will take place in five cities, where a number of speakers will present inspirational events.

Forums will be held in Madinah and Tabuk on Sept. 19, while in Abha and Buraidah the forum will be held on Sept. 21 and in Hail on Sept. 23.

Banaja said that the GEA had created 150 smartphone apps for the National Day celebrations with 40,000 downloaded so far.

He thanked the security authorities for their efforts to make the season a success, and all government, private and nonprofit sectors for their contribution.

The programs were mostly free, he said, though there were some concerts for which tickets could be purchased online.

There will also be a major aero show in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province, and a Saudi falcon show will be organized in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar.