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GCC governments urged to upgrade cyber security

by Neha Bhatia on Aug 30, 2015

Energy was one of the top two targeted verticals in 2014. [Representational Image]
Energy was one of the top two targeted verticals in 2014. [Representational Image]

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GCC governments have been called on to secure their critical national infrastructure as cyber attacks evolve to more sophisticated standards. 

Technology firm International Business Machines (IBM) has predicted 30 billion objects will be autonomously connected by the year 2020 as the 'Internet of Things' concept evolves. 

Operational technology, such as industrial automation and control systems, including power plants, oil and gas transportation, and manufacturing, are also connected with networks. 

Research firm Gartner found that connected IT, management systems, and control areas are facing an increased number of sophisticated cyber attacks. 

Manufacturing and energy/utilities were two amongst the top five most-targeted verticals around the world in 2014, having reported 23% of all cyber security infringements, IBM found. 

In August 2015, it was revealed that Saudi Aramco had to contend with a cyber attack on its systems three years ago

"While GCC governments and organisations are increasingly connecting industrial automation processes for smart intelligence on the back end of organisations, and on the front end citizen services, operational technology is at a rising risk for cybersecurity attacks," Times of Oman reported, quoting Asef Sleiman, general manager of Enterprise Network and Cyber Security Solutions, Omnix International, a GCC-based systems integrator. 

"In anticipation of this growing cybersecurity risk, GCC organisations must adopt standards and regulations to ensure older integrated systems and sensors transmitting sensitive data are protected from cyberattacks that could steal vita data or shut down cities and countries," Sleiman added.

Up to 81 million cyber security-related concerns were reported in 2014, as per IBM's findings. 

Unauthorised access, sustained probes and scans, and malicious code were among the most common attacks, the report added. 

A report by American technology firm Symantec found that 29% of global infrastructure and government organisations were targeted at least once in 2014. 

Cyber criminals attacking nationwide infrastructure hold the capability to send fake data to sensors to shut down transportation systems or street lights, create fake emergencies, or direct construction crews to intentionally damage utilities, according to a report by Securing Smart Cities, a global initiative for smart city cybersecurity.