There are two main factors that have led to a rise in disruptive cyberattacks in sensitive service sectors of the Kingdom, in the past few months, according to cybersecurity engineer Samir Omar. The first is the government’s shift toward digital services, and the second is the pivotal role Saudi Arabia plays in the global energy and oil industry sector, in addition to its participation in major political and economic events, on the international and regional levels.
Omar, who is CEO of Virtuport, a provider of cybersecurity advisory services to companies in the MENA region, pointed to reports that estimate the value of the Saudi cybersecurity market to reach SR21 billion ($5.6 billion) by 2023. Moreover, investment in cybersecurity is expected to be more pronounced in the energy sector, estimated at SR4.6 billion, while banks, financial services and the insurance sector came in second with a value of SR3.8 billion, accompanied by an increase in their reliance on knowledge economy and emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. This is being facilitated by the support and interest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, through the establishment of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence and the National Cybersecurity Authority.
Omar said the energy and financial sectors constitute the largest segment of the cybersecurity market due to the important role they play on the economic and investment fronts.
According to research by Business Wire, the cybersecurity market in Saudi Arabia is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.4 percent between 2020-2026. In 2019, the Kingdom ranked 13th on the Global Cybersecurity Index, jumping 33 places from its rank in 2017.
Omar’s comments coincide with the 8th Middle East and North Africa Information Security Conference (MENAISC), which will be held virtually due to the virus, from Oct. 5 to 6. The event aims to spotlight the significance of cyber resilience in the wake of increased cyberattacks during the ongoing pandemic. Cyber resilience refers to an organization or sector’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from cyberattacks.
MENAISC 2020 will be held under the title “Evolving From Cyber Resistance to Resilience, in the Age of Smart Cities, Digital Economy and IoT,” with the participation of more than 26 international and regional experts. It will cover Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt and Jordan, and targets 15 pivotal sectors, including: Defense, financial and banking services, insurance, information technology, energy and industry, health and retail, education, building and construction, and government service sectors.