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Saudi Arabia faces hackers

With more than 160,000 attacks per day, Saudi Arabia is now the country most targeted by cyberattacks in the Middle East © svershinsky

Facing the resurgence of cyberattacks targeting its institutions, both public and private, the kingdom must make cyber security a pillar of its Vision 2030 plan, while it has more than 23 million inhabitants regularly connected to the Internet.

With more than 160,000 attacks per day, Saudi Arabia is now the country most targeted by cyberattacks in the Middle East. Most of these attacks target the information systems of public and private institutions.

Although it is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the region, a recent policy study published by the Washington-based Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research suggests that the lack of local training and a general lack of awareness of the dangers of cyberattacks leave the kingdom exposed.

Promoting a “cyber-conscious” culture

“It was very important to conduct a policy study, to understand the landscape, dynamics and gaps of the cybersecurity measures in Saudi Arabia, and propose recommendations to the government and relevant (parties) for improvements,” said Dr. Muhammad Khurram Khan, founder and CEO of the foundation.

“Saudi Arabia  needs to pay careful attention to providing mandatory awareness and training programs at a national level”
Muhammad Khurram Khan

The study, entitled “The Challenges of Cybersecurity in Saudi Arabia: Past, Present and Future” also suggests that the Kingdom could improve its training programmes to promote a “cyber-conscious” culture in the country. “While Saudi Arabia is improving its cybersecurity in leaps and bounds, it also needs to pay careful attention to providing mandatory awareness and training programs at a national level,” said Khan.

Cybersecurity, a growing market in Saudi Arabia

Cybercrime has caused serious financial losses to various companies in the kingdom and abroad over the years, leading the kingdom to make huge efforts to respond to it, particularly since the attacks on Saudi Aramco in 2012. In August 2017, another cyberattack on a petrochemical facility was foiled due to a malware coding problem. “Saudi Vision 2030 envisions secure and resilient digital infrastructure with high-speed internet access across the country,” said Khan. “Therefore, the Kingdom needs to boost its cybersecurity.”

In this context, cybersecurity has become one of the fastest growing sectors in Saudi Arabia, with a market value expected to reach $5 billion by 2022. Recent initiatives taken by the Kingdom include the establishment of the National Cybersecurity Authority, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and UAVs and the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Higher School of Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technologies.