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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Young Emiratis urged to consider cyber security career to tackle 'greatest threat we face'

UAE must be prepared for new industrial age of artificial intelligence

The rise of widespread cyber attacks has been accompanied by a boom in companies tracking and chasing criminals. Ritchie Tongo / EPA
The rise of widespread cyber attacks has been accompanied by a boom in companies tracking and chasing criminals. Ritchie Tongo / EPA

Young Emiratis with a desire to serve their country should be at the forefront of developing security measures to keep pace with the fast developing online world, experts have said.

Keynote speakers are attending this week’s RSA Conference in Abu Dhabi on cyber security to discuss the developments in blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence and online threats.

A new age of cyber-industry is posing unprecedented levels of security risk to individuals and governments.

Online security is at a critical stage, with billions more internet users likely to be at risk in the near future.

Mohamed Al Zarooni, director of policy and programmes at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, said cyber security is the most important concern facing society.

“Cyberspace has become an open door for countless cases of fraud, blackmail and organised crime,” he said.

“Some studies indicate the value of risk from cybercrimes in the world could reach $6 trillion by 2021, 100 per cent higher than today.

“The tsunami of unrestricted social media in all directions and the concept of risk management in the digital world has become one of the most critical issues of this age.”

The UAE has launched an important stage of planning for the future with the launch of the UAE strategy for the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.

“The strategy includes a commitment to become the world’s first open laboratory for testing and applying technology to achieve ‘the security of the future’ as part of the preparation for sustainability in a post-oil era,” said Mr Al Zarooni.

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Security experts at the two-day conference estimate 4 billion people will be at risk from cyber-crime by 2020.

Dr Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, executive director at the Signals Intelligence Agency (SIA) and an advisor in analysis and cybersecurity, said governments must work closely with the private sector to make the online world a safer place to operate.

“With technology the private sector is our first line of defence,” he said.

“They will always be developing new technologies.

“We need to spread the cyber security in the new world of artificial intelligence and build on what we have through recruitment that focuses on people, enhancing their skills and enlightening them.

“Together, we need to be resilient with such advancements – particularly with increasing artificial intelligence that we will see in our lifetimes.”

A survey conducted by US cybersecurity specialists Raytheon, Forcepoint and the US National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), found young people in the UAE are committed to playing their role in protecting the nation’s interests in the new technological age.

Analysts surveyed 3,359 young adults aged 18 to 26 from nine countries across four continents.

Results showed 67 percent of Emiratis surveyed reported they are more likely than a year ago to consider a job in cybersecurity, compared with 48 percent regionally and 39 percent globally.

Shahzad Zafar, Cybersecurity Director at Raytheon International Inc, said the data shows young people in the UAE are ahead of others in realizing the cyber-security threat.

“We’ve found young people here are forward thinking and tech savvy,” he said.

“They are active on social media and aware of the concerns of cyber security and the opportunities as a profession, which is still relatively new.

“The figures show a sense of service.

“This is an important developing industry, and young people seem to be acknowledging that and are excited about getting involved in either protecting their homeland or in business.”

The survey also found 64 percent of Emirati youth have participated in or sought out cybersecurity job fairs, and 60 percent have participated in or sought out mentoring programs in the field.

Raytheon has delivered a series of activities to students at Khalifa University of Science and Technology under its global Cyber Academy, including cyber skills workshop and thought leadership lectures.

“Governments and businesses should identify their ‘crown jewels’ and know how to protect them,” said Mr Zafar.

“That could be key critical infrastructure like de-salination plants or financial institutions. If any one of these assets is targeted, it has huge implications on the population.

“This is a field that touches every aspect of our lives, it is here to stay and will grow exponentially.”