February 11, 2016

Bridging the Cybersecurity Talent Gap: A Scene Setter for UAESF 2016

The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, in partnership with Raytheon and Khalifa University, is bringing government officials, educators, and employers together in Abu Dhabi on February 21 for the UAE Security Forum 2016 to work to inspire the cybersecurity talent of tomorrow.

For more information, visit www.uaesf.org.

The Middle East is fertile ground for cyber criminality due to its extensive use of technology and high value targets. In the Gulf Arab states, cyberattacks targeting key installations cost an estimated $1 billion annually and further losses are expected in part due to activities of hacker groups like the “Desert Falcons” targeting businesses. Cyber criminals and hacktivists are chiefly motivated by an assortment of financial, social, and political objectives. Yet, cyber capability is increasingly an integral part of economic development and many states have adopted it as a key part of their economic plans while attempting to balance against risk. The United Arab Emirates’ ambitious digitalized national development agenda, which assures continued patterns of innovation, productivity, and economic growth, exists within a cyber threat environment.

As a society, the UAE is decidedly connected and this makes it easier to target. Connectivity induces vulnerability. The 2013 United Nations’ Broadband Commission report stated that 85 percent of UAE residents are online, which in terms of Internet usage ranks it third in the Middle East and 17th globally compared to the United States in 24th place. The UAE is also now the global leader in smart phone penetration, but also ranked fifth globally among “most at risk.” In 2014, it saw a 400 percent rise in targeted attacks reaching nearly five percent of the global total, up from less than one percent in 2013, while Dubai police received an incredible 1,549 reported cases of cyberattack. Difficulties with detection and more sophisticated attack methods account for the sharp rise of incidents. Increases in the response times after an attack rose from an average of five days in 2013 to 59 days in 2014. Despite the soaring 91 percent increase in the number of global targeted attacks, the UAE’s Internet security profile improved in terms of the number of security threats across all categories from its 2012 world rank of 41 to 47 in 2014. This reduction demonstrates that cyber defenses can work.