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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Ethical hackers and intelligence experts key to countering rise of cyber threats in UAE 

UAE considered a high value target for cyber criminals

UAE based international security firm DarkMatter is employing ethical hackers to protect the country from cyber attacks ahead of Expo 2020. Philippe Huguen / AFP
UAE based international security firm DarkMatter is employing ethical hackers to protect the country from cyber attacks ahead of Expo 2020. Philippe Huguen / AFP

Ethical hackers and intelligence experts are a growing workforce, employed to counter attack the unprecedented levels of cyber threats that have been aimed at the UAE in the build-up to Expo 2020.

UAE-based international security firm DarkMatter – that in June was officially charged with safeguarding the Expo’s digital platform -has called on businesses and government departments to recognise the rapidly growing threat posed by cyber criminals, saying they must tighten preventative measures ahead of one of the biggest events held in the region.

Ambitions to place itself at the forefront of technological advancement is accompanied by increasing vulnerability for the UAE, according to Rabih Dabboussi, senior vice president for sales, marketing and business development at DarkMatter.

“Cyber security has been growing rapidly due to increasing attacks and their complexity,” he said.

“The UAE is no different to elsewhere but it does get a disproportionate number of attacks compared to many other countries.

“Like any other crime, cyber crime follows the money and the UAE is a prominent, safe, oil-rich nation.

“It is much more stable than other counties in the region, but highly visible with an affluent economy. Cyber crime follows these things.

“Launching a successful attack against the country, or one of its prominent landmarks or businesses, would give significant notoriety.”

Expo 2020 Dubai will be one of the first commercial operations to use 5G services that promise twenty times the speed of current 4G internet services.

The potential to enhance the Internet of Things is vast, with no delay between command and delivery enabling automation to thrive at the next level of efficiency.

That advancement brings an increased level of risk of attack, but security experts are confident that they will see off any threats before they disrupt or cause potentially devastating consequences.

“We expect to see millions of people come through the operations after Expo Dubai opens in 2020,” said Mr Dabboussi, who in a previous role, helped drive Cisco’s Smart City strategy in the UAE and Middle East.

“We are engaged at such an early stage as a lot of new technology in the Internet of Things needs to be leveraged to make the event a success.

“That will include a lot of devices and systems, so our objective is to build the cyber security services that will avoid, detect and resolve these issues if and when they take place.

“Cyber terrorism is a form of cyber crime, although the motives may not always be for financial gain, the techniques and tools are similar.”

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DarkMatter employs ethical hackers and cyber-security professionals to install resilient infrastructure and quickly remedy issues when they occur.

In March, the company launched a smartphone that cuts off its camera and microphone to offer a secure line during sensitive meetings.

The Katim device is designed to stop a third party listening in, with its "shield mode" security feature disconnecting power from the microphone and camera.

Millions of online shoppers in the UAE have become exposed to cyber crime and scams due to the rapid growth of e-commerce.

Research from security experts Norton found 90 per cent of UAE consumers now shop on the go via mobile devices, despite 71 per cent of survey respondents knowing the risks.

Business analysts claim e-commerce in the UAE is forecast to be valued at $10 billion (Dh37bn) by 2018.

The focus on driving innovation is helping governments adopt new technologies and the policies that go with it, with a strong emphasis on security policy.

In May 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack caused considerable disruption to healthcare and banking systems in Europe, with many exposed because of running outdated operating systems.

Hackers targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

“Thankfully the UAE invests in regular patching and maintaining of those technologies to avoid such attacks,” said Mr Dabboussi.

Expo 2020 is expected to draw 300,000 users to their 5G network during peak days. The network will support tech-enabled volunteers, visitor information and crowd management.

“The Expo 2020 site is the only location in the UAE to be directly connected to the main connection hub in Fujairah, where the UAE’s internet network connects with the rest of the world,” said Rashid Mohammed, vice president of Intelligent Connect, Expo 2020 Dubai.

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