Middle East plans to build a cyber-stronghold

The risks and consequences of cyber-attacks are increasing exponentially each day. The computers that control most of the world’s oil and gas production and distribution operate from systems that are increasingly vulnerable.

This means a cyber-attack would drastically increase the wholesale prices of oil and gas – and could potentially cripple the global economy.

Avoiding a possible economic collapse is something the Middle East – the hub of oil and gas – is actively investing in as a primary priority. Research by visiongain reveals that cyber warfare and its market is showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon, and is predicted to reach a value of US$ 15.9 billion this year.

Governments globally are investing in a vast range of cyber warfare solutions to safeguard their critical national information infrastructure.

Preventing an attack is crucial

With the world economy heavily dependent on oil and gas, ensuring its safety is one of the main focal points of the upcoming Cyber Defence Summit in Oman. It is bringing together key regional figures and industry experts, and will allow decision makers from the Middle East’s critical infrastructure organisations to meet, discuss and develop a fool proof cyber defence plan for the region.

Taking place on April 2nd and 3rd, the summit is the brainchild of naseba Managing Director Nicholas Watson, who explained: “The world economy is shifting from the traditional power houses [of the West] to the Middle East. The Cyber Defence Summit is trying to ensure that attacks on the Middle East do not bring down a country or worse – the entire global economy. Everyone and anyone can be a hacker today – and we need to be proactive and vigilant. Industry leaders like Booz Allen Hamilton, Cassidian, Dell, Microsoft, Bitdefender and Lancope will ensure the region has the appropriate expertise and solutions available to avoid an attack.”

Significant investment demonstrates this is a very real problem

Countries in the Middle East have made cyber defence their priority, and are investing in it heavily. According to Frost & Sullivan; Saudi Arabia alone will have spent over US$ 33 billion on cyber security between 2007 and 2018. Oman, Qatar and the UAE have equally ambitious plans for the future, and these have been strengthened further by recent high profile attacks on Sony, IMF, FBI and the Syrian Ministry of Defence.

In addition, the Internet Security Report 2011 – published by online security firm Norton – confirmed 72 per cent of UAE adults have fallen victim to cyber-crime in the past year.

The biggest names in the industry are collaborating

Speakers at the Cyber Defence Summit include Eugene Kaspersky, the founder and CEO of Kaspersky Labs; Suleyman Anil, Head of Cyber Defence at NATO; Jim Nelms, Chief Information Security Officer of World Bank; Shawn Henry, Executive Assistant Director, FBI; and Guy Megeur, General Manager (Middle East) at Cassidian Cyber Security. International experts are gathering because security is an international problem and cannot be solved by just one region or country on its own.

“Unfortunately there is no doubt that the next major attack will be focused on national interests and on multiple countries. Where? When? How? Nobody knows. It’s the unpredictability that causes vulnerabilities to arise everywhere. The entire world, including the Middle East region, is unprepared; hence the timing of the Cyber Defence Summit is perfect. It will allow all stakeholders to come together and share their experiences and solutions and build a fool proof plan for the region,” said Guy Meguer.

The summit is the biggest initiative in the Middle East focusing on protecting the region’s critical national infrastructure. It is endorsed by ITU-IMPACT, the largest cyber security alliance of its kind with 137 member nations, and is officially hosted by Oman National CERT and Information Technology Authority Oman.

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