Experts warn against vulnerabilities of apps, videoconferencing platforms

Experts warn against vulnerabilities of apps, videoconferencing platforms
Users of the platform can invite multiple people to a single call, making the app popular. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 April 2020

Experts warn against vulnerabilities of apps, videoconferencing platforms

Experts warn against vulnerabilities of apps, videoconferencing platforms
  • “Over 300 compromised Zoom accounts are available on the dark web, which include each account’s connected email address, password, meeting ID, host key, and hostname”
  • “Zoom has been found using a nonstandard type of encryption to encrypt video, audio and text during online conferencing sessions”

RIYADH: Cyber experts are warning of the potential threats that come with online applications and video conferencing platforms as their use skyrockets during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown.
Videoconference platform Zoom has gained much fame in recent weeks. Users of the platform can invite multiple people to a single call, making the app popular among families, workers and celebrities alike. In a blog posted to the application’s website on April 1, the company announced that it had reached 200 million users in March, compared to just 10 million in December 2019.
A string of targeted attacks by hackers and trolls, however, revealed that the application was not end-to-end encrypted, leaving users vulnerable to a phenomenon called “Zoom-bombing” while on video calls. Zoom-bombing involves a perpetrator or unsolicited participant abusing Zoom’s default screen-sharing settings to take over meetings and post racist or pornographic material or otherwise harass users during a video conferencing session.
Zoom has published guidelines to protect against this by setting up password-protected meetings and enabling waiting room options, he said.
On April 8, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan apologized to users in a YouTube livestream for a string of security lapses that have hit the app in recent weeks, pledging to take the breaches seriously.
The Information Security Department of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority has warned against the app, saying: “The use of a remote meeting application known as Zoom has spread recently, and there are several associated security vulnerabilities that could lead to meetings being spied on and sensitive information, such as passwords, being leaked. We warn against using this application.”
Muhammad Khurram Khan, professor of cybersecurity at the King Saud University told Arab News: “In the current lockdown, working, learning and socializing from home has led to a significant spike in the use of online applications and video conferencing platforms including Zoom, WebEx, Skype, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.
“Some popular videoconferencing and distance learning applications have added millions of users overnight, causing their share price in the stock market to soar.”
Khan, who is also founder and CEO of the Washington-based Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, believes the reason behind Zoom’s popularity is due to its user-friendly features.
Khan further said: “Cybercriminals have exploited this increased popularity, registering over 3,300 Zoom-related website domains to hack or phish users. These websites contain malicious and impersonated Zoom applications, which could harm smartphones and computing devices by stealing sensitive data and conducting ransomware attacks.
“Over 300 compromised Zoom accounts are available on the dark web, which include each account’s connected email address, password, meeting ID, host key, and hostname.”
Zoom also has its inherent security and privacy vulnerabilities, which have sparked a vigorous debate in the cybersecurity community and global media.  
“Zoom has been found using a nonstandard type of encryption to encrypt video, audio and text during online conferencing sessions,” Khan said.
“It is highly recommended for government agencies, journalists, businessmen, ministers, and officials working on sensitive projects to consider only those applications that have strong security and privacy features for video conferencing sessions,” Khan said.

Khan also recommended that normal users wishing to communicate with family, friends or colleagues likewise take precautionary measures in choosing video conferencing applications.
The National Cybersecurity Authority has issued recommendations on how to protect remote meetings using Zoom, such as not using personal meeting IDs for public meetings, using strong passwords for all organized meetings, and locking meeting sessions once all participants are logged on.


Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 940 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 483

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 12 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,846.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,070 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 407,010 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,626 remain active and 1,105 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 483, followed by Makkah with 209, the Eastern Province with 157, Madinah recorded 44, and Asir confirmed 39 cases.

The ministry also announced that 940 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 390,538.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 141 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.01 million.


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and China’s president discuss climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and China’s president discuss climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
  • Kingdom is working to organize an annual summit for the Middle East Green Initiative, with China as a major partner
  • They also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and technology

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.
During the call, the two leader reviewed the recently announced Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative to combat environmental challenges in the region.
The crown prince announced the two initiatives in late March that aim to form partnerships with regional countries to tackle afforestation, reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent, and protect the marine environment, among other projects.
The crown prince and the president discussed the contributions of these two initiatives toward achieving global targets to combat climate change, and their influential role in raising the quality of life in the region and the world at large.
The crown prince said the Kingdom is working to organize an annual summit for the Middle East Green Initiative in the presence of leaders and officials in the environmental field, adding that China will be a major partner for the initiative.
The Chinese president said Beijing supported both initiatives, stressing the importance of their support by the international community.
Xi told the crown prince that China wants to advance its strategic partnership with the Kingdom.
The crown prince and the president also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and technology.
Prince Mohammed said his country was ready to strengthen the interconnection between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
During the call, Xi said Beijing “is willing to work with Saudi Arabia and other members of the international community to build an equitable climate governance regime that is cooperative and beneficial to all,” Xinhua news agency reported.
The Chinese president also called for joint efforts to comprehensively and effectively implement “the Paris Agreement on climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.”


Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

DUBAI: The Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait on Tuesday, state TV Al-Ekhbariya reported.

The Kingdom has seen an increase in attacks by the militia after the US delisted the Houthis from the list of terrorist organizations.

Last month, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak condemned recent attacks by the Houthis, saying that they hindered the peace process and blamed Iran for the ongoing crisis in the country.
“The Iranian interventions have become a formidable obstruction to peace as Iran has turned the Yemeni conflict into a negotiating card that Iranian regime capitalizes on to serve its nuclear negotiations,” he said.


Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 
Updated 20 April 2021

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

RIYADH: The National Culture Awards Ceremony kicked off with a bang in Riyadh, honoring 32 Saudi cultural figures in 14 categories.

A part of the Quality of Life program of Vision 2030 the Ministry of Culture announced the first annual National Cultural Awards winners in a ceremony on Monday evening in the Cultural Palace of the Diplomatic Quarter.

Sponsored by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over 14 categories were awarded in cultural pioneering, youth cultural, cultural institutions, film, music, fashion, national heritage, literature, theater and performing arts, visual art, architecture and design, culinary arts, publishing, and translation.

In January 2020 the Ministry of Culture began the completion process and received over 15,000 submissions online and began deliberating the top submissions into October and chose the final winners in December.

The Vice Minister of Culture Hamed M. Fayez spoke on behalf of the Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud in a speech addressing the ceremony stating, “ Culture, with its civilizational value, its social weight, and its effective developmental role today occupies the place it deserves. Thanks to the inspiring and ambitious national vision, the Saudi Vision 2030, which restored culture as a basic pillar in building society.  Anchored by the national identity and aspects of pride in the history and civilization of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Although the Minister of Culture was not in attendance he applauded the winners of the awards for their role in preserving and promoting the Kingdom's Culture stating, “ These intellectuals and creative minds are our cultural capital. With whom we will reach, with them and with their help, a cultural renaissance fitting the stature of our country.”

Dana Awartani one of the winners of the visual arts award from Jeddah, brings to life traditional geometry and historical themes in her art pieces.

“For me it is a huge honor first of all finally being recognized for the creative industry as a whole and all of the work that we do you know the past few years since the ministry has formed it has been completely different for us in getting support and recognition.”

“This is the first ever awards ceremony recognizing different arts which for me is a an honor to be a part of and it’s everything we have been working for, for the past my whole career has been summed up in today’s award and it is also great to see its  recognition from my own community, from my own country in a place where I grew up and where my art started,” Awartani shared with Arab News”.

Arwa Alammari a fashion pioneer of over 7 years and one of the winners of the fashion award shared her sentiments with Arab News stating,

“Being a part of such a cultural celebration of our heritage in such a way and it coming from my country means a lot to me, I have been working in this field for a very long time and I have been awarded internationally but when it comes from my country it means that we are all going toward the cultural changes that is going to be exported to the world.”

The awards ceremony concluded with a speech from the Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal Bin Bandar in attendance on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. 

“There is no doubt that it is a very excellent and wonderful step.  That establishes a cultural approach for this country that affirms its high and sublime position in all forums.” 

Prince Bandar thanked the Crown Prince for sponsoring the awards, the Ministry of Culture, and members of the ministry for organizing the event, “I hope that we will all succeed on other occasions to come, so that we will be at a high level in all our events, as much as tonight.  I thank you and hope every year you are well. Peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.”

14 cultural awards winners:

  • The Cultural Pioneer of the Year Award: H.E. Shaikh Mohammed Nasser Alaboudy
  • Youth Cultural Award: Winning first place is Shahad Saeed Amin for her films including “Lady of the Sea” and “Scales” that Saudi Arabia’s film authority nominated for best international film in the Academy Awards.
  • Cultural Institutions Award: First place in the private sector track is King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), First place in the Non-Profit sector track is Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, and winning first place in the Social responsibility track is the Ketabi Lak Application.
  • Film Award: In first place is Shahad Saeed Amin
  • Fashion Award: In first place Lomar, in second place Yousef Mohammed Akbar,and in third place Arwa Abdullah Alammari
  • Music Award: In first place Zaina Emad Swelleh,in second place Akram Ibrahim Almattar, and in third place Reem Fahad Altamimi.
  • National Heritage Award: In first place Abdulaziz Abdullah Aldakheel, in second place Dr. Hisham Ali Mortada ,and in third place Torathuna Social Responsibility Company.
  • Literature Award: In first place is Abdulaziz Saleh Alsagabi, in second place Magbool Moussa Alalawi, and in third place Amal Saleh Alharbi.
  • Theater and Performing Arts Award: In first place Sami Abdullatif Algamaan and in second place Yasser Yahya Madkhli.
  • Visual Arts Award: in first place Lolowah Abdulrazzaq Alhomoud ,in second place Danah Abdulrahim Awratani, and in third place Ahmad Sami Angawi.
  • Architecture and Design Award: A winner was not selected as the submissions did not meet the requirements. 
  • Culinary Arts Award: In first place Rakan Ibrahim Aloraifi, in second place ZADK Culinary Academy, and in third place Norah Abdulwahab Albadran
  • Publishing Award: In first place was Obeikan Publishing and Translation, second place Kadi and Ramadi for Publishing and Distribution, and in third place Dar Athar for Publishing and Distribution.
  • Translation Award: In first place Abdallah Mohammed Idris, in second place Sultan Nasser Almujaiwel, and in third place Bander Mohammed Alharbi.

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries
Updated 20 April 2021

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

RIYADH: King Salman has authorized SR 1.9 billion to be paid to Saudis who receive social security benefits, Al Ekhbariya reported early Tuesday.
Ahmed Suleiman Al-Rajhi, the minister of human resources and social development, welcomed the king’s generous support to citizens during the holy month of Ramadan. 
The announcement came as Saudis prepare to fast for the eight day.