Youth hold key to Saudi Arabia’s future cybersecurity: Industry experts

Saudi Arabia ranks 13th in the world and first at the Arab level among 175 states in for its commitment to cybersecurity. (AFP)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Youth hold key to Saudi Arabia’s future cybersecurity: Industry experts

  • “The Saudi cybersecurity federation founded a platform which is the only one in the Middle East to serve companies and government agencies to discover software vulnerabilities and address them through the help of Saudi security researchers”

JEDDAH: Saudi youth hold the key to securing the Kingdom from future cyberattacks, industry experts claim.

And continued state investment in the digital security sector was vital in helping to achieve the social and economic goals of the Vision 2030 reform plan.

“Cybersecurity is a sensitive aspect of national security. Every country needs to mitigate the risk of cyberattacks and protect its assets in the cyberworld, and this is as important as protecting countries in the physical world,” said Dalal Al-Harthi, a cloud security engineer with Farmers Insurance Co.

“In today’s world, our dependence on the internet in all aspects of life has necessitated protecting our assets in the cyberworld. Cybersecurity encompasses everything that pertains to protecting our sensitive data at a government and corporate level from cyber thefts and damage attempts,” added the 32-year-old University of California Ph.D. candidate in computer science.

Dr. Muhammad Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University and founder of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, in Washington, D.C., told Arab News: “After the Saudi Aramco incident (Shamoon cyberattack) in 2012, the (Saudi) government embarked on a journey to bootstrap its resources toward building a resilient cybersecurity ecosystem to address the cyber risks from internal and external hostile adversaries.

“During the last few years, several local universities have commenced degree programs in cybersecurity to prepare skilled and professional experts to cater for the demand of the local public- and private-sector organizations,” he said.

The importance of the sector to Saudi Arabia has been reflected in its setting up of several dedicated organizations such as the National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA), the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones (SAFCSP), and the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, and Advanced Technologies.

Al-Harthi said cybersecurity in Saudi Arabia was solid, reliable, and well-recognized, highlighting the Kingdom’s ranking of 13th globally, and first in the Arab world, among 175 states in the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) issued by the UN International Telecommunication Union for 2018.

“The Saudi government cares about cybersecurity and provides all facilities to ensure the security of organizations’ networks and systems. Of course, like all aspects of life, continuity in the development of the cybersecurity field is vital,” she said.

Bayader Al-Ghamdi, a 26-year-old Saudi cybersecurity researcher at US industrial service company Baker Hughes, said the Kingdom was making great strides toward developing the skills of future generations by providing training programs ending with employment, cybercamps, workshops, and competitions.

“The Kingdom has demonstrated its efforts in light of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis by offering remote competitions such as the Homathon contest and workshops such as Cyber Nights that were held in Ramadan, under the SAFCSP,” she told Arab News.

Al-Ghamdi pointed out that after the cyberattack targeting Saudi Aramco, and the launch of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to develop and benefit from its youth in protecting their country, the awareness of people had risen.

“The Saudi cybersecurity federation founded a platform which is the only one in the Middle East to serve companies and government agencies to discover software vulnerabilities and address them through the help of Saudi security researchers.”

Khan noted that the National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC), established in 2016, and the NCA which followed a year later were built to boost the Kingdom’s cybersecurity and defend the national infrastructure.

“Many talented cybersecurity professionals have started off their companies locally, which are not only providing jobs to the talent but also fueling the national economy and providing cybersecurity products and services to the industry.”

He said that it was important to increase the number of cybersecurity experts in the Kingdom, adding that a study by Cybersecurity Ventures had shown there would be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021, up from 1 million positions in 2014.

“Saudi Arabia will also have a huge number of jobs in this profession so we need to work out from inception to meet this challenge and build highly skilled professionals and experts with hands-on training and experience to address the cybersecurity risks.”

 


Saudi Cabinet congratulates security forces for thwarting terror cell

King Salman chairs the virtual meeting. (SPA)
Updated 30 September 2020

Saudi Cabinet congratulates security forces for thwarting terror cell

  • King Salman thanked international leaders and officials for their messages of congratulations to the Kingdom and its people on the occasion of its 90th National Day

RIYADH: The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday congratulated the Presidency of State Security for its work in identifying and apprehending the suspected members of a terror cell in the Kingdom.

Some of those who were arrested allegedly trained at sites in Iran run by the country’s Revolutionary Guards. A cache of weapons and explosives was also seized.

Ministers expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the presidency’s employees in tracking down those who threaten the security and stability of the Kingdom and the safety of those who live there.

Majid Al-Qasabi, the acting minister of media, said that while reviewing the latest regional and international developments, cabinet members reiterated the Kingdom’s call during the recent International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference for the international community to adopt a firm stance on Iran, and take steps to address its violations of international agreements relating to its nuclear-research program. They also reaffirmed Saudi support for efforts, in partnership with the international community, to make the Middle East a nuclear weapon-free zone.

The virtual meeting was chaired by King Salman, who began by passing on his condolences and sympathy to the people of Kuwait and the family of its Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who died on Tuesday. He also congratulated the emir’s successor, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

King Salman thanked international leaders and officials for their messages of congratulations to the Kingdom and its people on the occasion of its 90th National Day. He also briefed ministers on his recent telephone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during which the two leaders reviewed bilateral relations and discussed opportunities to further develop them.

The cabinet commended the king for his speech during the UN’s 75th General Assembly in New York, during which he emphasized the his country’s continued commitment to assisting the international community in efforts to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and address its humanitarian and economic implications.

Ministers also noted that his speech reflected the Kingdom’s dedication to security, stability and prosperity as a strategic choice, its call for peaceful coexistence, moderation and solidarity among all countries and peoples to address humanitarian challenges, its support for political solutions to conflicts, and its efforts to combat extremism in all its forms.

Al-Qasabi said that the Cabinet welcomed the announcement by the Kingdom that the G20 Leaders’ Summit will take place as planned as scheduled on Nov. 21 and 22, albeit virtually as a result of the pandemic. Saudi Arabia hold the presidency of the G20 this year.

Ministers also expressed their appreciation for international efforts, led by G20 countries, that have resulted in the provision of more than $21 billion to support the production of diagnostic and therapeutic tools during the pandemic, and the development and distribution of vaccines. In addition, more than $11 trillion has been allocated to protect the global economy, and more than $14 billion to mitigate the debt burdens of less-developed countries and help fund their health services and social programs. The Cabinet also reviewed the latest local and international developments in the pandemic, along with preparations for the safe resumption of Umrah.

Ministers reiterated the Saudi call, during an emergency meeting of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for Environmental Affairs, for urgent action to avoid an environmental catastrophe in the Red Sea as a result of the deteriorating condition of the oil tanker Safer, which has been anchored off the coast of Yemen, near Ras Issa port, since 2015.

The Cabinet also expressed its concern over developments in the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and urged both sides to agree a ceasefire and resolve the conflict peacefully in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.