x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE vulnerable to cyber attacks, Bush adviser says

Lecture in Abu Dhabi used to warn the nation that with increasing internet connectivity, it needs an online defence strategy.

Richard Clarke said the UAE was "vulnerable ... to espionage from anywhere".
Richard Clarke said the UAE was "vulnerable ... to espionage from anywhere".

ABU DHABI // A former US presidential adviser has urged the UAE to bolster its defences against internet hackers, saying the threat of cyber attack and espionage is "real". In a lecture in Abu Dhabi last night, Richard Clarke, the former special adviser to president George W Bush on cyber security, gave warning that the UAE's connectivity rendered it "vulnerable to cyber attacks and espionage from anywhere and anyone".

In his lecture, entitled Cyber War, the Next Threat to the UAE's National Security, Mr Clarke said the UAE should form a "defence strategy" against attacks. He urged the UAE to use its "international presence" to establish a body that regulates cyberspace. "Cyberspace is a hostile place and it can be used to destroy, disrupt and damage major networks," Mr Clarke said at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.

Using Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, as an example, Mr Clarke said: "Who wouldn't want to learn and steal the secrets of alternative energy on which the UAE is spending millions for a just a few dollars or euros? "Every company has information someone wants. Before, a spy would break into an office and get away with a few documents. Now, the cyber spy would get away with millions of documents."

Mr Clarke detailed the internet's development into something "we can't live without". "We have become dependent on computers in everything, from running water to traffic controls and all our financial transactions," he said, adding that economic, military and civilian institutions could be crippled through a single hack into the right networks. Defensive steps taken by the country so far include the inauguration in March of Abu Dhabi Police's first cybercrime officers, which included 15 recruits recently graduated from a Zayed University course that specialises in cyber security.

Also this year, EADS, the European aerospace and defence giant, joined up with Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research to provide cyber security training in the this country. In 2007, Dubai's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority created the UAE Computer Emergency Response Team, while last year, it was announced that a federal judiciary department would be set up to deal specifically with cyber crime.