Industries, not governments, should be at the forefront of the global technological revolution to create a more sustainable ecosystem and future, according to Aloysius Cheang, Huawei Technologies' chief security officer for the UAE.
While the Middle East is making its presence felt on the international cyber security and innovation stages, it still lacks the maturity of markets such as the US, Europe or Singapore, where industries have a leading role in driving the development and expansion of technology, Mr Cheang told The National at Intersec 2022, held at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
“Yes, [the Middle East] is very developed, but we are still not there yet. It’s all about industries leading a revolution compared to a government-led revolution in cyber security that is more sustainable,” he said.
“The government plays the role of cheerleader as the industry assumes responsibility to push for an industry-led governance system – that is what you call true maturity.”
The world is currently in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it reaps the benefits of New-Age technologies, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics and Big Data. The speed of current technology breakthroughs has no historical precedent and is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace, according to the World Economic Forum.
The market size for Fourth Industrial Revolution-specific technology was estimated to be $116.1 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow almost three times to $337.1bn by 2028, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights.
The Middle East is well represented at the top tier of cyber security, with the International Telecommunication Union's latest Global Cybersecurity Index ranking Saudi Arabia second and the UAE fifth on the back of strong legal, co-operative measures and capacity development.
Eliminating weapons of mass distraction
When it comes to cyber security, top concerns for organisations include having a master plan and security and privacy by design, which, in turn, will strengthen the digital transformation journey for customers and end users. It would also ensure that the so-called “three Ds” – distraction, disruption and destruction – are not triggered by cyber attackers, Mr Cheang said.
“The biggest challenge is always from the national security side. Any kind of application that acquires the most sensitive data will be the most challenging,” he said.
“You need to build a multilayer defence and every single layer has to withstand the security requirement at that layer before you proceed to the next.”
Cyber security will also be a “key deciding factor” during the adoption phase of the metaverse – the digital space that allows those in it to communicate and move using three-dimensional avatars or digital representations, Mr Cheang said during his address at Intersec.
Regulations need to catch up with the risks involved, ransomware could be waiting to strike and it may result in the “Internet of Vulnerable Things” if not properly addressed, he added.
“Even if your data is unclassified, the challenge comes from managing a big data set. Exclusive and massive data are the two most difficult spectrums,” Mr Cheang said.
“In massive data, one breach of the defence and everything is gone. You can do good for 89 minutes, but if somebody scores against you on the 90th, you lose the game.”
In June last year, Huawei said it was working with a number of UAE government organisations to establish the nation as a “globally trusted digital oasis” that is safe from potential cyber threats, while also helping the Emirates achieve its goal of setting up smart cities and e-governments.
During last year's Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (Gisec) in Dubai, Mr Cheang was also appointed co-chair of the 5G security working group of the Organisation of the Islamic Co-operation's computer emergency response team.
It was also at Gisec 2021 that a call was made to establish cyber security accelerators and support start-ups, as well as attracting talent and more companies to set up shop in the UAE. Updates on this initiative will be provided at this year's event in March, Mr Cheang said.