Abdullah bin Omar Bafail, the president of Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah

Abdullah bin Omar Bafail
Updated 27 September 2019

Abdullah bin Omar Bafail, the president of Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah

Abdullah bin Omar Bafail has been the president of Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah since March 2018. Before that, he was the vice dean for graduate studies and scientific research, and the vice president of the projects department at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah.

Bafail has served at numerous positions at King Abdul Aziz University for the past 40 years; he first joined the university as a lecturer at the faculty of engineering in 1979.

Ten years later he became an assistant professor at the industrial engineering department, then an associate professor in 1997, and a professor in 2006.

Bafail was a member of the probability and statistics studies group at the industrial engineering department between 1990 and 1994 and the head of the same research group between 1995 and 2018.

Moreover, Bafail served as an adviser to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Savola Group, a Saudi Food retail sector company, and other public and private entities.

Bafail holds a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Arizona State University, in the US. He received his master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and his bachelor’s degree in systems engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

In his speech at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah to mark National Day Bafail said that this is a chance for citizens to remember the achievements and successes as a nation.


More Saudi women seeking to specialize in cybersecurity, say experts

To strengthen the cybersecurity skills of Saudi female students and professionals, public and private sector organizations should come forward to set up cybersecurity hands-on training courses. (AFP)
Updated 10 min 21 sec ago

More Saudi women seeking to specialize in cybersecurity, say experts

  • The global shortage of a skilled cybersecurity workforce is a rising challenge and we all have to play our role to overcome it as a shared responsibility

JEDDAH: More Saudi women want to specialize in cybersecurity as it becomes one of the Kingdom’s most in-demand sectors, according to experts.

Cloud security engineer at Farmers Insurance Co., Dalal Al-Harthi, created an all-female cybersecurity bootcamp that lasted three months and took place from mid-June to mid-September.

She tweeted an announcement on April 19, asking women who were interested in learning about cybersecurity to apply for a bootcamp place. More than 3,000 applied before the registration deadline.

“I was very happy and encouraged to see this enthusiasm toward learning and that many women were interested in being part of this bootcamp, so I decided to accept as many applicants as I could,” she told Arab News.

Al-Harthi is a doctoral candidate in the US although her trainees are mostly in Saudi Arabia. She taught trainees about all cybersecurity fields and areas including Linux Commands, Python Programming, Cloud Security, Network Security, Incident Response, Digital Forensics, SIEMs, Ethical Hacking – Penetration Testing, Cryptography, and CompTIA Security+.

“I designed it to be 20 percent theoretical knowledge and 80 percent hands-on practice on several cybersecurity tools and platforms such as AWS, Snort, Wireshark, PyCharm, Kleopatra, OpenSSL, MySQL, DVWA, BurpSuite, HTML, Splunk, Autopsy, John the Ripper, as well as working on Virtual Machines: Kali Linux, Tiny Core, Ubuntu, Metasploitable2, Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, and Raven.”

In addition to improving trainees’ cybersecurity knowledge and experience, she focused on how to get them employer-ready by enriching their resumes and polishing their interview skills.

Al-Harthi told El-Ekhbariya in a TV interview that the shortage in female cybersecurity specialists was not restricted to the Kingdom. It was a global issue and the field had a gender problem. “By the end of 2019, women represented 20 percent of the cybersecurity workforce globally.”

She said she was “extremely passionate” about empowering Saudi women and pushing for more women in cybersecurity in particular to up female representation to 50 percent.

“This bootcamp is one of the steps that I took toward achieving that. I have absolute confidence that the trainees in my bootcamp will help share the knowledge that they gained to support other women in the field.”

By the end of 2019, women represented 20 percent of the cybersecurity workforce globally.

Dalal Al-Harthi

The bootcamp was held virtually through the Classera platform, and specialists created it free of charge to support and empower women who were interested in learning about and working in the cybersecurity field.

Muhammad Khurram Khan, professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University and founder and CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research in Washington D.C., said that Saudi women were showing high levels of success in several fields and professions.

“They are also outperforming male counterparts by their passion and enthusiasm for higher studies and research,” he told Arab News. “Recently, a great surge of Saudi women in information and communications technology has been observed, especially with a particular interest in the cybersecurity field. This interest is getting momentum due to the recently launched initiative of the National Cybersecurity Authority to support and encourage women to participate in the cybersecurity profession.”

He said that Saudi female students at local universities were taking part in cybersecurity research, projects, professional certifications, and securing top positions in the “Capture the Flag” hacking competitions.

“They have also published a number of high-impact research publications in top international journals and conferences, which is indeed commendable. This all shows their great potential, professionalism, and talent in the cybersecurity field, which would ultimately contribute to protecting the Kingdom’s cyber assets from adversaries.”

The professor added that universities and institutions needed to launch programs to attract female students and professionals to the cybersecurity field to overcome their under-representation and under-utilization in the industry.

“The global shortage of a skilled cybersecurity workforce is a rising challenge and we all have to play our role to overcome it as a shared responsibility. To strengthen the cybersecurity skills of Saudi female students and professionals, public and private sector organizations should come forward to set up cybersecurity hands-on training courses, launch cybersecurity incubators and accelerators, and commence guidance and counseling programs.”