UAE’s digital security has room for improvement

Building a layered security network that has the trust of the local population and shares data among governments departments is just one of the ways the UAE can protect itself from digital threats, experts have said.

Fingerprint processing at UK’s platinum service for visa applicants in the UAE. Reem Mohammed / The National
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DUBAI // Building a layered security network that has the trust of the local population and shares data among governments departments is just one of the ways the UAE can protect itself from digital threats, experts have said.

Although the UAE has been working on its e-government services for the past two and a half years, there is room for improvement.

“The GCC will cross the UK and Europe in the next few years in smart automation,” said Dr Usman Zafar, chief executive at Duc International Consulting in the UAE. “But as citizens, we want information at the right time so pushing information has become crucial.”

He said large investments in data centres had not achieved any return. “There is no unified integration,” he said at the second day of Biometrics Middle East Conference on Tuesday.

“Government departments work in silos and don’t communicate so you can’t get a smart service. We need interoperability and we need to find a mechanism to enable scattered government systems to talk to each other.”

Dr Zafar said a national framework was needed to share data as it removes barriers and allows for better collaboration among ministries.

Gaining more trust from the community in e-government services is another crucial factor for success.

“Innovation has no geographic boundaries,” said Daniel Hughes, managing director at Forge Training and Management Consulting in the UAE and former head of navigation at the UAE Navy Forces Institute. “It’s been a core part of every region and it’s leading to a lot of the new developments.”

He said a lot more innovation in biometrics could happen but consumers lacked trust in technology.

“We’re moving down the path of biometrics,” he said. “From cardiac rythm to vein patterns in our fingers and eyes, it is what we are. The technology is there and it’s easy to use but it’s the individuals that use that data to spread it that cause problems.”

For Richard Castillo, master trainer and consultant at the firm, a layered security is vital as it is one of the most effective tools for enforcement.

“One of the key elements of layered security is criminals never know what to expect,” he said. “They have very strong intelligence but technology and biometrics has had such an impact on enforcement operations. There is no single security solution, to me it’s a combination and every layer of security is crucial, from the officers, to the training, technology, biometrics verification and private sector assistance.”

Mr Castillo, who has worked in airports, land borders and alongside customs and security enforcement, said the Gulf has been targeted.

“There are threats here like everywhere,” he added. “We’re talking about money laundering because it’s a passageway for commerce so every business should have a layered security in place.”

Although he said the UAE had very good security features, but there was room for improvement. “There is no one country that has a 100 per cent fault proof system,” he said. “But it requires an educational effort.”

cmalek@thenational.ae