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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

‘UAE is vulnerable to cyber attacks’

A report has revealed that UAE government websites are vulnerable to cyber attacks and urges international cooperation to tackle the problem.

ABU DHABI // UAE Government websites are vulnerable to cyber attacks that are seeking to exploit defence and security flaws, says a United States report.

International cooperation is needed to fight the threat posed by such attacks, according to the report compiled by the Going Global Defence Initiative of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

“These sites are important to the government in relating to and connecting with the people,” said the report.

“In the Middle East, there is a growing recognition of the threat of cyber attacks and the market for cybersecurity software and services is expected to continue to grow.”

These attacks were driven by an interest in capabilities that governments were procuring, said Col Ralph Thiele, the chairman of the Cyber Defence and Network Security UAE summit and a former director of special projects at the German air force.

“There are people who want to threaten the stability of governments,” he said.

The report also discussed the UAE’s growing defence sector, which is increasing the country’s reliance on technology and the need for connectivity.

“Even in the defence arena, connectivity will extend beyond the UAE’s borders,” it said. “But the integrated [missile defence] system will require comprehensive protection from cyber threats.”

Col Thiele said there had been a dynamic change in business and security, adding that the cyber threat was gaining importance in all critical fields.

“Countries need to include basic capabilities like firewalls and [adopt] a value-centric approach because you have to look at what is of particular importance to the prosperity of a country and, based on this, make it difficult and expensive to attack,” he said.

The report said although readily available internet access and advanced technology in the UAE made the country an attractive and accessible market for many businesses, the high level of cyber interconnections were vulnerable to cyber attacks.

It also highlighted a need for cybersecurity across the public and private sectors.

“Cyber crime is not any different from conventional crime,” said Hani Nofal, the executive director of intelligent network solutions at Gulf Business Machines in Dubai.

“Criminals have always used technology since the very early days and they will continue to to reach their goals.”

He said internet connections were increasing, so cybersecurity challenges would become even more complex.

“Cyberattacks targeting oil companies are just an example that, if it reaches a system that is very critical, the situation will be much more complex and we all have to be ready for it,” said Mr Nofal.

cmalek@thenational.ae