ABU DHABI // Governments and businesses alike need to prioritise protection from cyber threats through data management and network defence, said experts at the What’s Next? forum.
Marta Tomovska, deputy minister of Macedonia’s ministry of information society and administration, said protection should be custom made, according to government involvement in online databases.
“Governments need to invest money and time in protecting themselves against threats that are capable of threatening national security,” said Ms Tomovska.
She said that as a first measure, governments need to separate the information they have online, as all data in an entity should not be made available to all employees, and thus easier to access from outside sources.
Ms Tomovska, who works in enhancing Macedonia’s cyber protection capabilities, said that passwords and fail-safe systems only go so far. She said it is actual awareness against specific attacks that is successful in protecting a government entity.
“Raising awareness amongst individuals is more important; you must ask them how they can protect themselves from protection,” said Ms Tomovska.
Mahir Nayfeh, senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, said cyber security was an ever changing field that adjusts to the most common threats.
“In the past, people spent a lot of money on the front door of the defences thinking that the threats are only on the outside.
“The reality is, the problem is on the inside and we’ve been sloppy,” said Mr Nayfeh.
He said insider threats enabled more damage to be carried out against a company or government.
“You’ve got to ask what does everyone have access to? In today’s world, essentially there is no more front door, because if I can get someone to open an attachment, I’m inside.”
Mr Nayfeh advises his clients on how to stay safe from cyber attacks, not by looking at the “front door” but by asking them how they manage their data.
“We ask, where is the most prized piece of information? Who can see it? Does everyone see it?” said Mr Nayfeh.
“Through that, what you’re starting to see is a different model of how to protect yourself.”
He added threats in the region were getting more serious.
“We used to view cyber crime as stealing information, but the Aramco attack was one of the first where we saw actual destruction of the systems,” said Mr Nayfeh.
The Aramco attack in 2012 resulted in three-quarters of the data on the oil company’s corporate computers being erased.
The attack caused the company to shut down all email capabilities plus access to the internal network for several days, with the problems lasting months after the attack.
Mr Nayfeh said the UAE and other countries in the GCC were doing a better job at protecting themselves, and predicted they would continue to do so with the implementation of better technology.