Saudi Arabia has transformed its cyber defenses, but businesses need to do more: Kaspersky CEO

Kaspersky experts believe that major shifts will occur with regards to the types of targets and attacks scenarios. Next year, bold attackers could even mix physical and cyber intrusions by employing drones to attempt proximity hacking. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 17 December 2022

Saudi Arabia has transformed its cyber defenses, but businesses need to do more: Kaspersky CEO

  • Saudi Arabia is ranked third in the region, with 33.3 percent of users facing cyber threats

RIYADH: Companies in Saudi Arabia and globally should be made to attest they have up-to-date cyber defenses, according to the CEO of a leading digital security company which revealed in a research that a third of computer users in Saudi Arabia were targeted by cyber criminals in 2022.

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and cofounder of Kaspersky, an IT security company with 4,000 employees, told Arab News in an exclusive interview that governments should introduce regulations for cybersecurity systems and require businesses to adhere to the related guidelines in the same way they do for fire hazards regulations.

His comments came after research by his firm showed that since January of this year, as much as a third of users in the Middle East, Turkiye and Africa region were affected by online and offline threats.

Offline threats are malware spread in local networks by USBs or other offline means, whereas online threats are malware or fraud that use the Web.

Saudi Arabia ranked third in the region, with 33.3 percent of users facing such issues, preceded by Qatar at 39.8 percent and Bahrain at 36.5 percent.

When it comes to offline threats, Saudi Arabia had the lowest number with 32 percent affected users. Whereas Egypt, Qatar and Jordan had the highest numbers with 42.4 percent, 33.9 percent and 33.2 percent respectively.

Critical infrastructure industries such as manufacturing, oil and mining, and chemicals were flagged as facing increasingly targeted attacks, with Kaspersky data showing that 43 percent of industrial computers were targeted in the META region in the first three quarters of this year.

Reacting to the research, Kaspersky called for cybersecurity to be added to the key performance indicators of publicly and privately owned companies.

He said: “Twenty-five years ago, computers were typing machines, then they became a part of business procedures and now they are becoming a part of infrastructure management so cyber is becoming more and more incorporated into everything we have.

“We are becoming more and more dependable on cyber technologies.

“Government should be responsible for introducing regulations for cyber systems similar to the regulations implemented on other systems like fire alarms, construction, urban facilities etc., whereby companies will be expected to follow the standards or receive penalties if they fail to do so.”

Comparing the landscape of threats in the Gulf Cooperation Council region to the global level, Kaspersky said it is more or less the same: “Junior cyber criminals who hunt for little fish such as individuals and small businesses, as well as professional criminals who hunt for the big catch like banks and big enterprises, are the same wherever you go.”

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and cofounder of Kaspersky

He added that quantifying the damage from cyberattacks on national or global economies is not possible because the financial results are not reported, but he can estimate it to be around a portion of 1 percent of the economy, which is already a huge number.

When asked about the recommended budget to be allocated by companies to cybersecurity, Kaspersky stated that budgets vary depending on the sector in which companies operate but on average less than 1 percent of a firm’s operational budget is adequate.

“Security scenarios are needed to understand the risks companies face in case of cyberattacks. Companies should identify the most critical parts of their business and how much it will cost them in case they are under a successful attack and then build a security system around that,” Kaspersky stated.

The weakest link in the chain

In a separate research note, it was revealed that humans were often the weakest link when it comes to security systems, as most viruses would only need a person to click on a wrong link or download a wrong attachment to infiltrate a system or network.

Even though creating awareness through cybersecurity education is important, Kaspersky still believes in developing technologies that can prevent these attacks.

The company has launched a range of products based on its cyber immune approach, which is a means to create solutions that are virtually impossible to compromise and minimizes the number of potential vulnerabilities.

“Cybersecurity education must be done everywhere, even in schools, but I still believe in technologies which will reduce the risk of human factors. I believe in the future we will have smarter technologies to advise people not to make mistakes,” Kaspersky said.

‘Impressed with Saudi Arabia’

Kaspersky has been operating in the Middle East, Turkiye and Africa region for more than 15 years. The company has been collaborating with the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones to raise cybersecurity awareness and build national capabilities.

Founded in 1997, the global cybersecurity and digital privacy company provides security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and consumers worldwide.

The company’s security portfolio includes endpoint protection and a number of specialized security solutions and services to fight sophisticated and evolving digital threats.

Recent developments include working on a gateway that can be installed on the central unit of cars to protect them from hacking, provide a safe update of both the gateway itself and the car’s electronic components over the air, and allow logs from the car’s internal network to be sent to the security monitoring center.

Earlier this year, Kaspersky opened a new office in Saudi Arabia, within their overall aim to expand their network globally and in the region.

“I am very impressed with how fast Saudi Arabia has transformed itself and how much the country pays attention to cyber transformation. Because of this I have been in Saudi Arabia three times this year, and to be in the same country three times is exceptional,” Kaspersky said.

What’s next?

Kaspersky experts believe that major shifts will occur with regards to the types of targets and attacks scenarios. Next year, bold attackers could even mix physical and cyber intrusions by employing drones to attempt proximity hacking.

Some of the possible attack scenarios include mounting drones with sufficient tools to allow the collection of WPA handshakes used for offline cracking of Wi-Fi passwords, or even dropping malicious USB keys in restricted areas in hope that a passerby would pick them up and plug them into a machine.

Given the current global political climate, Kaspersky researchers also predict a rise in destructive cyberattacks, affecting both the government sector and key industries. It is likely that a portion of them will not be easily traceable to cyberattacks and will look like random accidents.

The rest will take the form of pseudo-ransomware attacks or hacktivist operations to provide plausible deniability for their real authors. High-profile cyberattacks against civilian infrastructure, such as energy grids or public broadcasting, may also become targets, as well as underwater cables and fiber distribution hubs, which are challenging to defend.

Saudi Arabia’s leadership in global clean energy advocacy stressed at COP28 

Updated 27 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s leadership in global clean energy advocacy stressed at COP28 

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is poised to take a leadership role in global forums, leveraging its presence in the G20 and the Clean Energy Ministerial to spotlight regional knowledge and environmental concerns on the world stage, according to a senior executive.

During the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, in Dubai, Jean-François Gagne, head of the secretariat at the Clean Energy Ministerial, emphasized the significance of regional harmonization in advancing climate change ambitions. 

“Saudi Arabia has the advantage of being at the G20 table, allowing it to play a leadership role in bringing regional knowledge and environmental concerns to the international table. This is crucial because we need all regions of the world to move forward together," Gagne told Arab News.  

He added: “When you have regional champions, it really helps making sure that there’s no one that gets left behind in terms of advancing our clean energy goals.” 

Global leaders call for binding agreements, increased renewable energy investments at COP28 

Updated 29 min 1 sec ago

Global leaders call for binding agreements, increased renewable energy investments at COP28 

DUBAI: The call for a significant increase in renewable energy investments resonated strongly on the third day of COP28, with various leaders advocating for a binding agreement at the Dubai event.   

In the High-Level Segment National Statements, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz outlined a tripartite proposal to reinforce the gathering’s recurring themes.   

“I propose three initiatives today. Firstly, making renewable energy expansion a top global energy policy priority. Here in Dubai, let’s set two binding goals, tripling renewable energy expansion and doubling energy efficiency by 2030,” Scholz stated.  

“My second point addresses international collaboration. We require platforms for developing collective solutions to transformation challenges.”    

He added: “Thirdly, I wish to discuss solidarity and responsibility. In 2022, Germany exceeded its goal of providing €6 billion ($6.5 billion) annually for international climate finance.”   

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store also highlighted his country’s commitment to the event’s ambitious renewable energy targets.   

On the other hand, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir reaffirmed her nation’s dedication to advancing global energy transition.   

“We must drastically reduce emissions. Accelerating the green energy transition, scaling up green solutions, enhancing nature-based solutions, and ensuring polluters pay are essential. However, we also need to reduce our focus on maximizing production and consumption, shifting toward sustainability and well-being,” Jakobsdottir remarked.   

Other leaders underscored the critical need for financial support to assist developing countries in their transition efforts.   

“The world must honor its financial pledges. In 2022, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) reported $7 trillion spent on fossil fuel subsidies, yet the global commitment to the Paris Agreement’s $100 billion annual target remains challenging,” stated Mark Brown, prime minister of Cook Islands.   

Liberia’s President George Weah also emphasized the importance of improved global financing mechanisms, highlighting the country’s need for support to strengthen its climate action initiatives.   

Moreover, global leaders have also laid out their accomplishments as well as future strategies for combating climate change.   

“We have cut our coal use by over 80 percent. We are growing our economy at a much faster pace than the eurozone average while reducing emissions. In total, our emissions are down by 43 percent from 2005 as we turn to renewable energy, the best performance among European countries,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis, prime minister of Greece, said.   

“Burundi has committed via the Nationally Determined Contributions to protect the environment, to strengthen resilience toward climate change, and to boost food security. This is infused in our national policies and our vision for Burundi. An emerging country by 2040, and a developed country by 2060,” Evariste Ndayishimiye, president of Burundi, said.  

US should participate in carbon pricing rather than oppose it: IMF director

Updated 30 min 14 sec ago

US should participate in carbon pricing rather than oppose it: IMF director

DUBAI: The US should participate, rather than being a “loud opponent,” in carbon pricing, urged the director of the International Monetary Fund.
Addressing the Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum alongside the UN Climate Conference, Kristalina Georgieva affirmed that the US must not hinder the world from “moving in the right direction.” Instead, the country should explore the standards and regulatory fees it needs to implement carbon pricing into its economic model. 

The director deemed carbon pricing a “wonderful instrument” due to its dual role in revenue generation and addressing inequality. The principle is straightforward: the more emissions one creates, the more one consumes, resulting in a proportional payment.
According to Georgieva, revenues generated from carbon pricing can be strategically directed to compensate the most vulnerable parts of the global population. Assessments by the IMF indicate that allocating 20 percent of these revenues significantly support the 30 percent most vulnerable areas, providing them with the “much-needed” backing. 

The IMF chief emphasized that “carbon price is a very strong incentive, much stronger than anything else we can invent.”  

Addressing concerns about the political feasibility of carbon prices in various places, she expressed disagreement, asserting that carbon pricing can be implemented in diverse ways.
She added: “It can be a tax, and when it is a tax, it is the most efficient and impactful way.”  

Georgieva pointed out that in countries where carbon tax was gradually introduced, emissions saw a significant reduction of 30 to 40 percent. Furthermore, she highlighted European trading mechanisms that have successfully generated $190 billion in revenue.
Despite the current average carbon price standing at $20 per ton in areas covered by carbon pricing, when amalgamating this figure with 75 percent of the world without carbon pricing, the average carbon price would fall to $5, she noted. 
According to the IMF, a package of measures, including carbon pricing, the elimination of harmful subsidies, and policy support, would significantly accelerate decarbonization. The director instilled the idea that adopting such measures could empower the global population to “make this decade one that we take pride in.” 

Fossil fuel direct subsidies soared to a record $1.3 trillion in the last year, driven by support measures in response to the cost-of-living crisis, as stated by Georgieva. When factoring in indirect subsidies, such as those arising from the absence of carbon pricing addressing environmental and health damage, the total surges to $7.1 trillion. 

“We need to go from $900 million where we are now to $5 trillion to make decarbonization a reality. The question is, is $5 trillion, a lot of money? Well, it’s obviously not a little but put $5 trillion next to $7.1 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies, or next to the size of the world economy, which is over $100 trillion,” the director outlined. 

She added: “I think we should be brave and say yes, it can be done, except it will be only done if we get the private sector to move faster and especially move faster in the developing world where emissions are growing. I’m an optimist; I have seen gradually moving on blended finance in a meaningful way.”

Emphasizing the significance of climate finance, the IMF chief affirmed that when considering all nationally determined contributions for this decade, they would result in only an 11 percent reduction in emissions. 

To uphold the commitment to limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, it would instead require contributions ranging between 25 and 50 percent, as highlighted by Georgieva.
Meanwhile, private funds currently contribute 40 percent to climate finance. To meet emission targets, this figure must escalate to 80 or 90 percent.
Despite climate risks being “macro-critical” and impacting economies, communities, and households, ultimately leading to financial instability, the director highlighted that transitioning to the new climate economy presents  “unique opportunities” for green growth and job creation. 

While the world economy has demonstrated resilience during challenges such as the pandemic and global conflicts, Georgieva, however, acknowledged that the IMF recognizes the current growth rate as “slow.” 

The organization is forecasting a modest 3 percent year-on-year growth rate for the next five years, nearly a full percentage point below the average of 3.8 percent observed in the preceding decade. 

The director expressed concerns that geopolitical tensions might exacerbate economic fragmentation amid a global climate crisis. This situation has left the entity “very concerned” about the growing inequality both within and across countries.
There exists a striking contrast between economies with a robust capacity to cope and low-income countries, where many have become “way more vulnerable” to climate devastation whil

African nations seek fair climate financing at COP28

Updated 22 min 52 sec ago

African nations seek fair climate financing at COP28

DUBAI: Developing countries in Africa have urged developed nations to ensure equitable climate change financing for the implementation of adaptation and mitigation projects to address the global crisis, as highlighted by various officials participating in the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai. 

On the second day of the COP28 summit, President of the Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadéra emphasized that developed countries, being the primary polluters, should bear the cost of climate change. “When it comes to determining who should pay for the climate bill, the answer is, bearing in mind the gap between developed countries, which are the primary polluters, and poor countries, it would be logical for the former to finance the mitigation process," stressed Touadéra. 

Also speaking on the second day, President of Equatorial Guinea Obiang Nguema Mbasogo echoed this sentiment. He emphasized that “it is not enough, in our view, for developed countries to simply wring their hands and make empty promises.”  

“Rather, they need to fulfill their commitments and obligations under the Paris Agreement, which we achieved at COP21, and ensure the rollout and implementation of tangible, concrete action to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change,” the president added. 

Building on this, Côte d'Ivoire Vice President Tiemoko Meyliet Koné urged partners to mobilize more resources for the adaptation of African countries to the effects of climate change and to ensure financing for the continent’s energy transition. 

“Notwithstanding this, there is a need to avoid a situation in which finance for energy transition increases the debt of countries,” Koné emphasized.  

This plea comes as Africa, one of the regions with the highest rates of carbon capture and oxygen release globally, experiences minimal benefits, as highlighted by Mbasogo. 

“Africa, which bears the least responsibility in terms of emissions, is responsible for just 4 percent of global emissions. Unfortunately, Africa is a primary victim of the direct impacts of climate change,” Touadéra underlined during his speech. 

Exhibition World Bahrain wins World’s Leading New Exhibition and Convention Centre 2023 award

Updated 02 December 2023

Exhibition World Bahrain wins World’s Leading New Exhibition and Convention Centre 2023 award

DUBAI: Exhibition World Bahrain (EWB) secured the World’s Leading New Exhibition and Convention Centre 2023 award at the World Travel Awards 2023, according to an official statement.

The award was presented to Dr. Nasser Qaedi, CEO of the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), during the World Travel Awards 2023 Grand Final Gala Ceremony, which took place at Burj A-Arab in Dubai on Friday. The award was handed out in the presence of Philip Joseph Pierre, the prime minister of Saint Lucia, tourism ministers, and travel elites across the globe.

EWB captured the highest number of votes, clinching the internationally recognized award from Bharat Mandapam, India, and Takina Wellington Convention and Exhibition Centre, New Zealand.

With this win, "Bahrain has further cemented its reputation as the leading global hub for the meetings industry (also known as the MICE industry) due to EWB’s versatility, with its ultramodern amenities and innovative services that cater to all types of events," the statement said. 

Winning the award coincides with EWB’s first anniversary and celebrates a remarkable set of milestones. The venue is a sought-after destination for prestigious events, having hosted large-scale exhibitions, conventions, conferences, grand weddings, live concerts, product launches, seminars and much more.

EWB is strategically nestled within Bahrain’s vibrant Sakhir area, the kingdom’s up-and-coming hub for events, sports, and entertainment. The modern Arabesque structure is adjacent to Bahrain International Circuit, the home of Formula One and motorsport in the Middle East; Al-Dana Amphitheatre, the newest live entertainment destination in the region; and the soon-to-be developed Bahrain International Sports City, with easy access to the new Bahrain International Airport, over 18,000 hotel rooms across the island, and a wide range of attractions and dining experiences.

“It has been a privilege to receive this coveted award at the WTA ceremony. This remarkable accomplishment reaffirms EWB’s exceptional performance and continuous strides in the MICE industry, which is aligned with Bahrain’s tourism strategy 2022-2026 objectives to position Bahrain as a key regional player in business tourism and host major international exhibitions and conventions, increasing the tourism contribution to GDP, (increasing) the number of target markets, and diversifying the tourism product,” said Nasser Qaedi, CEO of BTEA. 

“With the implementation of mega tourism projects, the kingdom of Bahrain is solidifying its position as one of the most sought-after destinations in the next five years, backed by well-developed infrastructure, unique attractions, and enticing promotional packages offering travel experiences and accommodations in the kingdom’s most prominent hotels,” Dr. Qaedi added. 

EWB will host the ninth World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism in 2024, the world’s largest gastronomy tourism event.