Cyber security: a team sport

The number of cyber attacks and incidents in Gulf Arab States in the past year has led to increased concern about cyber security throughout the region.

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Cyber security: a team sport Terry L Thompson, vice president in Mission Analytics, Booz Allen Hamilton Middle East.
By  Terry L Thompson Published  November 6, 2013

The number of cyber attacks and incidents in Gulf Arab States in the past year has led to increased concern about cyber security throughout the region. Gulf Arab States are among the most ‘connected’ countries in the world with high levels of internet usage for government, business, and education.

Governments in the Gulf region have responded to the growing cyber threat with impressive speed. Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) have been established or strengthened, new laws and decrees against cybercrime have been enacted and enforced, and new government organisations have been established to focus on cyber security. Most countries in the region have expanded cyber security education through public awareness campaigns and the development of university courses and curricula.

Gulf states are beginning to recognise that cyber security is a team sport. Cyber threats are growing in volume and sophistication and in order to keep pace with the threat, a collaborative effort is required between government and industry as well as across national boundaries.

Gulf states have been thoughtful observers of cyber security initiatives in the US and other countries. The UAE, for example, recently established the National Cyber Security Authority to bring national-level focus and capability to its cyber security efforts. The UAE Ministry of Interior, in a noteworthy initiative, published information about cyber attacks on UAE entities in 2012. Other GCC countries such as Oman and Qatar continue to improve their national focus on cyber security through law enforcement and cyber security education initiatives.

Globally, the most effective approaches to cyber security encompass broad, continual, and timely sharing of critical information about vulnerabilities, data breaches, and emerging cyber threats as well as about proven cyber defence techniques and approaches. Information sharing is as important as strategy, policy, and organisation in achieving effective cyber security. It is also one of the most difficult to achieve.

In Gulf countries, there are varying levels of understanding of cyber threats as well as what needs to be done about it. Meanwhile, the threats continue to evolve, becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect. There is also lack of consensus about what actions are needed. The 2012 meeting of the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) held in Dubai in December demonstrated that any kind of treaty on internet security is not going to happen soon, if at all. There are too many differing views about the most effective approach. Reconciling all the competing views into language agreeable to all countries, if even possible, would likely result in a watered-down treaty that would have little impact on improving enterprise IT security.

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