IT security training gains popularity in Saudi Arabia

An increasing number of Saudi Arabian companies are teaching their technical teams how to handle cyber threats as the Kingdom takes its business online.

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By  Patrick Phelvin Published  March 1, 2004

|~|security_M.jpg|~|Saudi firms are realising the importance of tight security.|~|Until now, the state of IT security training in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has been varied. While the country boasts major corporations that have implementing training procedures to rival those of any Fortune 500 company, the vast majority of organisations stop short of specialised security training for their staff and rely purely on software to protect their information. Recent virus attacks and raised awareness of general security issues in the Middle East now look set to change this. “For the first time, we are starting to get people calling us and requesting services, before we had to knock on doors ourselves. Now people are starting to realise the need for these services,” says Dr Khaled Al-Ghoneim, CEO Al-Elm Information Security and chairman of the Saudi Computer Society (SCS). This increased interest in training relating to security was evident at the recent ITP Security Roadshow in Riyadh, which attracted more than 180 people. Also in the Saudi capital, 75 IT and security managers from industry sectors that including banking, government and large enterprises gathered recently for the first in a series of events organised by IT Security Training & Solutions, I(TS)², a provider of consultancy and training. “Last year there were a lot of people [in KSA] who knew enough to be scared. In 2004 we are now seeing many people actually have budget specifically for security rather than a budget line for IT,” says Samer Omar, vice president of professional services for I(TS)². “They are starting to segment IT and security and that’s the first real step towards a corporation’s maturity,” he adds. The reasons for this increased awareness of security training are twofold. First, the international drive towards standardisation means that many companies require certified security experts. Secondly, viruses like MyDoom that hit headlines throughout the world force top-level corporates to take a look at their security. Many in Saudi did not like what they saw as those certified staff able to properly draw up and implement a security policy were thin on the ground. “The spread of viruses and worms made companies at CEO level realise they might have a problem with information and security,” explains Al Ghoneim. “There are three parts to the security triangle, people, services and products. Most enterprises focus wrongly on products, thinking that they are the main solution to security. We believe that security relies heavily on the two other pillars,” he adds. In response for the increased demand for security training services, I(TS)² has tied up with training provider New Horizons Saudi Arabia to offer its Security Career Track scheme in the Kingdom. The programme is designed to take a security novice all the way through to certification. “We want to take somebody from the ground zero of security knowledge through certification and specialisation courses so they can get on a par with what people around the world are doing and get the same level of knowledge,” says Omar. “We have a partnership with New Horizons where we will leverage their marketing staff and facilities to promote the security career track,” he adds. Despite this enthusiasm in the Kingdom for security training, there is still resistance among companies that are being faced with another cost for which there can be little immediate return on investment (ROI). “There is a lot of interest here, people are talking about it but the market is not always ready to pay. There are two levels, there is general interest and awareness, this is already here, but once you ask people for their cheque books, they think twice,” Al-Ghoneim observes. ||**||

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