Saudi Arabia develops secure alternative to WhatsApp

In this file photo taken on February 20, 2014 logo of WhatsApp is seen on a smartphone in New York. (AFP)
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Updated 05 September 2020

Saudi Arabia develops secure alternative to WhatsApp

  • Saudi Vision 2030 underpins the importance of digitalization and cybersecurity and that this endeavor is in the pursuit of that program

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is developing a secure alternative to the short messaging service WhatsApp that will help ensure protection of confidential data.
The local messaging service will limit the Kingdom’s reliance on foreign companies and ensure that any confidential or sensitive data is safe on local servers.
A dedicated team of Saudi engineers and researchers at the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) is working on this project.
The instant message platform is expected to be ready in a year and will allow users to communicate in a secure environment as an alternative to Facebook’s WhatsApp and Tencent’s WeChat.
“This platform is being built on locally developed encrypted software and algorithms that will protect it from potential security vulnerabilities and help achieve the highest degree of security and privacy,” said Basil Al-Omair, director at the National Information Security Center at the KACST.
In a statement issued to the media, Al-Omair further said that the homegrown platform will also guarantee a safe exchange of both text and voice communications.
“The advantage of the app, designed by the all-Saudi workforce, is that it is free from external servers controlled by foreign agencies and will hence ensure confidentiality,” he added.
They are currently targeting government agencies, institutions and companies, and not the average user, he said.

The advantage of the app, designed by the all-Saudi workforce, is that it is free from external servers controlled by foreign agencies and will hence ensure confidentiality.

Basil Al-Omair, Director at the National Information Security Centre at the KACST

Speaking to Arab News, Mohammed Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at the King Saud University in Riyadh, said: “It is indeed a great initiative taken by the KACST to develop an indigenous platform for secured file transfer and multimedia communication, which would have a multitude of benefits.”
He added: “It may create new job opportunities for local talent, develop intellectual property, provide homegrown secure application to public and private sector organizations, and offer bilingual communication interfaces for native users.”
In addition, its local development will ensure that it is free from any security backdoors and loopholes that allow hackers to perform cyberattacks, added Khan, who is also the founder and CEO of Global Foundation for Cyber Studies & Research in Washington, DC.
“This application will harness military-grade security for the confidentiality and integrity of communication and will provide end-to-end encryption for the private exchange of data,” he said.
He added that Saudi Vision 2030 underpins the importance of digitalization and cybersecurity and that this endeavor is in the pursuit of that program.
“Once this platform is successfully implemented and tested, it could be exported to generate revenue and boost the national economy,” said Khan.
The platform, he added, could be made scalable and may integrate with other services to provide additional functionalities, such as securing payment of bills, tickets and money transfer.


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.