Saudi Arabian government and private sectors urge for better cyber security

With regional instability brewing and tensions with Iran at their highest level in recent memory, cyber security has taken on heightened urgency and importance in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In light of these developments, over 150 CIOs, CISOs and other security decision makers gathered at the 8th Cyber Defence Summit on March 22nd and 23rd, 2016, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Organised by multinational business facilitator Naseba, and chaired by Dr. Basel Al Omair, Founding Director of the National Center for Cybersecurity Technology (C4C), the summit addressed Saudi Arabia’s current and upcoming cyber threats with practical solutions, and helped the attendees to source latest solutions and services from companies like Spire Solutions, Cyberia, Koenig Solutions, Fortinet, ITS2, Sahara Net, Tasheel, Hudoud Alteqnia, Qualys Middle East, Blue Coat, and Tripwire.


Ibrahim Alshamrani, Executive Director of Operations at the National Cyber Security Centre of the Ministry of Interior, addressed the audience on the topic of ‘Securing the connected future of Saudi Arabia’. He highlighted some of the key threats faced by the Kingdom, including zero day attacks and next-gen malware, and stressed the value of high-level capacity building and collaboration. The highly anticipated panel discussion on “CIOs and [quote align=”right”]Senior Saudi decision makers met privately in Riyadh to address growing cyber security challenges amidst economic and geopolitical tensions in the region[/quote]the digital future – making security everybody’s business” featured Dr. Hani Al Zaid, Counselor and CIO at the Shura Council; Adeel Ashraf, Group ICT Director at Abunayyan Holding; and Dr. Ahmed Altheneyan, Technology Advisor and CIO, Minister’s Office, Ministry of Defence. Panelists exchanged thoughts on the developments reshaping technology leaders’ top priorities, such as the rise of the mobile channel and global economic uncertainty. The panel was chaired by Eng. Ahmad Alkhiary, CEO of IT Security Training & Solutions.


Eng. Ahmad concluded the session by saying “Cyber security is a collective responsibility. Leaders like CEOs, CIOs and CISOs need to align the needs and strategies of the business with IT and security. Technology owners, custodians, stakeholders, users, and the overall community need to have a better understanding of cyber security implications and the role each of them play.” Another discussion revolved around cyber security in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Panelists included Dr. Jalal Al-Muhtadi, Director of the Centre of Excellence in Information Assurance (CoEIA) at King Saud University; Rasha Abu Alsaud, CISO at a leading Saudi bank; Eng. Fahad Alhezayen, Head of IT Networks within the Saudi government sector; and Majed Al-Shangti, Head of ICT-SS CRM & Admin at Ma’aden. The panel was moderated by Ridwan Hossain, Economic Officer at the US Embassy in Riyadh.


Established cyber security insiders provided valuable insights through security talks that covered vulnerability validation, internal segmentation, cyber security from a GRC perspective, cyber security implications for a layman and infosec guidelines for government agencies. Furthermore, attendees were enthralled by two hands-on workshops on penetration testing and cyber deception, to stay two notches above the cyber criminals. Some of the other speakers included Dr. Russell Gann from Vinnell Arabia division of Ministry of National Guard; Eng. Fahad Alaydi from CITC; Ali Fathi Ahmed from ISACA; Mohamud Aqil from Al Faisaliah Group; Ibrahim Alfaifi from the banking industry; Saad Almalki from KAPSARC; Sameh Sabry and Shenoy Sandeep from Spire Solutions; Rajneesh Upadhyay from Koenig Solutions; Gilles Loridon from Global Security Network; Riku Valpas from Fortinet; and Matthieu Garin from Solucom.


Rasha Abualsaud, the only female speaker, whose talk was rated as one of the best, saidWe need to refresh the security posture of our organisations regularly, as the threats landscape is changing every day.”


The summit director, Naveen Bharadwaj said “The 8th Cyber Defence Summit was another successful edition of what has been a consistently popular series that started in 2011. Naseba is committed to providing ideal settings for CIOs and CISOs to learn, network and procure. The summit’s next edition will be held in Qatar in October 2016, followed by potential expansion to India and South Africa.”

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