x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Defence has hackers in sights

The discussions focused mainly on emerging intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance trends, and the power of information in modern warfare.

ABU DHABI // The UAE is giving priority to the war against hackers as virtual threats increase.

"Cyberwarfare and cybersecurity is quite a hot topic," said Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, the senior information and communications technology adviser at the Centre of Excellence and Development for the Armed Forces.

"Before it was land and sea and air and space, but now it's cyberwarfare that is a huge domain of power … cyberwarfare is proving a challenge."

Speaking at the Middle East Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Conference yesterday, Dr Al Ahbabi said the key to strengthening online security was raising awareness in the community.

"So how to deal with this and improve awareness about cyberwarfare?" he asked.

"Of course we have to target the community and those around the globe in the workforce who work in the cyber domain."

The conference was organised by the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (Inegma) and featured military and defence personnel from around the world.

The discussions focused mainly on emerging intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance trends, and the power of information in modern warfare.

"New technologies have changed the nature of war and operations as well as the nature of the threat, making it more lethal, and have subsequently made it imperative to all armed forces to remain able to evolve to a better standard," said Maj Gen Mohammed Al Essa, a Ministry of Defence official, in the keynote speech.

"Improvement comes mostly through acquiring new technologies and training, but it also comes through exchange of experiences, information and knowledge with our allies."

Last month, Israeli hackers shut down the UAE Central Bank website for at least 20 minutes in apparent denial-of-service attacks, where a computer or network is flooded with useless traffic to cut off service to legitimate users.

The same group took credit for temporarily disrupting service to the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange.

The attacks are part of a continuing cyberwar between Israeli and Arab, mostly Saudi, hackers.

Maj Gen Khalid Al Buainnain, the former commander of the Air Force and Air Defence and the president of Inegma, said the UAE was better prepared than other countries to deal with the threat of cybercrime.

"It's a priority for national security," Gen Al Buainnain said. "This is receiving very significant attention from our leadership."

In addition to education and awareness, he said the Government was looking at options that included investing in the latest technology and building data centres.

Dr Al Ahbabi and Gen Al Buainnain said staying on top of cybercrime could prove nearly impossible as attackers were difficult to trace and technological weapons came in many forms.

"There will never be 100 per cent counter-attack measures because this is evolving so fast," Gen Al Buainnain said. "People don't know the threats. We have to change the culture."