Oman is ranked fourth on Global Cyber Security Index and first in the Arab region, but cyber security challenges due to growing technology applications lie ahead. Oman’s cyber government bodies Information Technology Authority (ITA) and Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) have thwarted more than 70 million attacks this year, including malware, phishing and organised attacks. Experts believe the fight against cyber crimes has just begun with advancing and more resilient threats.
“Cyber security is something that is ongoing all the time and does not sleep. We are working on it, but there is a lot more to be done. We have already drafted the data protection law, and we are working on regulations pertaining to the IoT (Internet of Things), smart cities and other developing technologies,” Salim Al Ruzaiqi, Head of ITA, told Times of Oman during the sixth Regional Cyber Security Summit (RCSS) being held in Oman on November 20 and 21. Oman is ranked 81st most cyber attacked nation in the world this year, making it a relatively secure nation, but experts say it does not mean Oman is isolated from attacks or growing new technology footprint. Citing data from cyber security firms Kaspersky and Symantec, Badr Al Salehi, Head of CERT, said that the financial costs of cyber attacks are nearing half a trillion dollars worldwide this year, and the security threat to every sector is real. “We have seen an increase in ransomware attacks in Oman. One in 131 emails is a malware and one in 2,596 emails is a phishing attempt. Worldwide, the financial cost of ransomware has touched $1 billion. Some 18,639 incidents were reported in Oman, which included website and network attacks and accounts that were compromised. We have detected 549 malware until now in Oman this year and 129 cases of cyber crime. All these show that although we have built a resilient security system, threats are evolving and will continue,” he noted.
Omantel, the state-owned telecom company, recently launched a dedicated IoT network, in partnership with French IoT firm Sigfox, which helps companies gather data using any device that is connected to the network. Although this brings significant efficiency and cost savings, it is also a major threat to cyber security, as any vulnerable device can act as a backdoor for getting into a network. “Attacks in the future will be different. They will be hard to predict and more dangerous. The development of IoT, smart cities and AI (artificial intelligence), among others, will pose threats that are larger and harder to manage,” he remarked. He cited examples of how cyber criminals were getting better with technology, and pointed out that one could hire criminals through the dark web to commit cyber crimes.
To combat future threats, the Sultanate of Oman needs to step up education and create awareness on topics of cyber security, added Al Salehi. “We need international cooperation. We also need to raise awareness among the various stakeholders and introduce cyber security drills. There is also a need to develop local cyber security tools, instead of relying on ones from outside all the time.” Several delegates and speakers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the USA and Interpol from Europe, as well as other private and government organisations, were present on the first day of the sixth Regional Cyber Security Summit.