Cybersecurity is integral pillar of digital transformation, says UAE official

Dr Mohamed Al Kuwaiti tells 'The National' that simple procedures can be followed to ensure safety from cyber attacks

Dr Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, Head of Cybersecurity, at the Cybertech Global Conference 2022. Pawan Singh/The National. Story by Alvin Cabral

Cybersecurity is an integral pillar of the digital transformation, the country’s top cyber security official said on Thursday.

At the International Defence Industry Technology and Security conference being held in Abu Dhabi this week, the UAE's head of cybersecurity said that even with the highest security standards, the Emirates continues to be vigilant of cyber attacks.

“We shed light on many of those advanced and emerging technologies that will affect, if not are already affecting, our daily lives,” Dr Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE's National Electronic Security Authority, told The National.

“These technologies vary from the cloud, to cybersecurity, to autonomous systems, to quantum computing, and even to the space technologies.

“These technologies could be used in a harmful way. The more that we depend on technologies, the more vulnerable we are.”

Mr Al Kuwaiti explained that corporations' enthusiasm to go 'fully digital' or just do more business online often supersedes the need for good cybersecurity.

“Everybody wants to go towards the digital transformations but going there without a clear plan, without a standardisation and regulated aspects will impact them and will impact national security efforts,” he said.

“With these technologies and because they are all connected and we are connected, all of our data is in the cloud, all of our entities' data are in the cloud, we need to build the culture of cybersecurity.”

The number of ransomware attacks surged by 151 per cent worldwide in the first half of 2021, a World Economic Forum report said, highlighting the need for action. Just recently Gems Education, the largest private school operator in the UAE, was targeted by cyber criminals.

“Cybersecurity is the [integral] pillar of all of this digital transformation, and … of the attacks that are happening and threats [that] could impact many of those critical infrastructures, from oil and gas, to nuclear, to electricity, to transportation to education,” said Mr Al Kuwaiti.

There is positive news, however.

Security standardisation exists which entities could easily follow and adopt, he said, and by doing so guarantee at least 90-per-cent security from outside attacks.

“By following those standards, you will be in a safe haven — at least up to 90 per cent or 95 per cent. But vulnerabilities are always there.”

Updated: March 04, 2022, 4:09 PM