Cyber security lacks integration

Mohamed Almarashda, a doctorate researcher in cyber and national security at Bournemouth University in the UK, said that cyber security response systems are insufficient to counter the cyber crime threat.

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ABU DHABI // An Emirati researcher believes his work will help to improve the nation’s ability to respond to cyber security threats.

A recent report in The National revealed that the UAE is the second-most targeted nation in the Middle East for cyber attacks.

Maj Mohammed Almarashda, a doctorate researcher in cyber and national security at Bournemouth University in the UK, told the National Security Summit on Wednesday that cyber-security response systems are not enough to counter this threat.

Maj Almarashda believed his research could help by improving coordination between the Government, law enforcement and the private sector.

The Sharjah Police officer said these attacks cost businesses in the region up to Dh1.5 billion, with most of the attacks originating from China and Eastern Europe.

He said the number of reported cyber attacks ranked the UAE fourth in the world.

The Government has allocated Dh5.5bn to battle cyber threats and to secure data, Maj Almarashda said.

“The UAE Government has taken big steps in establishing cyber security,” he said at the conference, which focused on public safety in the Middle East.

Despite the investments, he said the systems in place were ineffective and the nation was vulnerable because of the lack of information sharing between entities such as national and local governments, business, critical infrastructure organisations and the military.

“Nowadays, the private sector is not involved well in the cyber-security domain. This is a big issue,” Maj Almarashda said. “We need to make sure that the information flows without any hassles between the different authorities and institutions.”

He gave details of prior attacks and identified areas of vulnerability as information that could be shared more widely.

“The protection of the critical national infrastructure involving oil, gas, water and electricity in the UAE is lagging. The result is this could cause major disturbances to key services,” Maj Almarashda said.

His research looks at the effectiveness and resilience of the cyber security framework.

Thus far, he said his findings had indicated a need to develop more research on how various entities can coordinate defence.

“There is a big black area in terms of research in this area, until now,” he said.

“The proposed framework we are developing will be based on enabling information sharing between all the key stakeholders in the country, not just security agencies. There are lots of stakeholders that should be involved.”

He said he was working with the Federal Supreme Council and the National Electronic Security Authority.

“Our future work will aim to establish a policy and procedures manual to handle cyber incidents,” Maj Almarashda said.

He said the country’s political situation and the integration of technology in the lives of residents were contributing factors that have made it a prime target for attacks.

“We think the UAE is one of the countries that has implemented a very sophisticated IT infrastructure,” Maj Almarashda said.

Dr Mohamed Amin, programme leader and information expert with the Higher Colleges of Technology, described some of the main factors affecting the abilities of the private sector to bolster information security.

Dr Amin agreed that major organisations should hire specialised staff to work on cyber security and promote awareness among staff.

“People do not have the knowledge to protect their IT assets,” he said.