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RIYADH: The world needs a new approach to protect itself from emerging cyber threats, the Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology told the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday.
Abdullah Al-Swaha has added his voice to calls for reform in the face of growing threats from hackers and rapidly evolving technologies, such as AI and quantum computers, which have the potential to topple even the best cybersecurity available today. today.
He said the Kingdom had risen to second place in the world in its cybersecurity rankings, but added that it needed to “reconvert” to maintain that position. “We need to ditch conventional computing to secure everything,” he said.
The dangers posed by technological advances were pointed out in another panel by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who said near-future computers would make modern devices look like abacus.
He called for training in the management of artificial intelligence and quantum computers, and warned that several AI programs could already mimic human behavior.
“We need quantum to fight quantum. We have to rethink everything. We will actually become obsolete when quantum computers are deployed,” he said.
“People said it was impossible to create a quantum computer that could compete with a digital supercomputer. Three years ago the impossible happened: quantum computers in the United States and China surpassed the capabilities of a digital supercomputer.
He said China’s quantum computer is 100 trillion times beyond the capacity of a modern digital device.
“These quantum computers open a new era of insecurity. These quantum computers can evade all known security protocols. It’s called chaos. Realizing that we are entering a new era, the era of Silicon Valley is coming to an end, as quantum computers begin to take over.
He said that while the transition to the quantum era could be gradual, it was nonetheless inevitable.
Kaku added that humans should create advanced trapdoor functions to prevent a criminal from entering the security apparatus.
The forum brought together international experts under the theme “Rethinking the Global Cyber Order”.
4,500 participants from over 110 countries discuss a wide range of cyber issues.
Speaking at the same panel, Shyam Saran, India’s former foreign minister, said global collaboration and a sound diplomatic framework were needed to ensure cybersecurity.
“We live in a very difficult geopolitical situation. The countries that could lead a collaboration (cybersecurity) are actually competing against each other. If they’re not going to lead, who will? he said.
He said policy makers should be educated about cyber threats to help them create the right regulatory policies and create a safe online space.
Doreen Martin, secretary-general-elect of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union, insisted that world leaders are paying attention to cybersecurity issues.
She told the event: “The UN Secretary-General has placed cybersecurity at the heart of the common agenda he launched last year, and it is also at the heart of the new agenda for peace that is under discussion”.
Martin admitted that the world needed to be better prepared for the wave of technical innovations on the horizon.
“I think each of us needs to do more because as we go up, the cyber world moves faster, and the quantum comes faster, and of course the metaverse is almost here, so we need to do more,” he said. she declared.
Martin said the ITU helps countries benchmark themselves, identify gaps in their defenses and look to others for best practices.
“Overall, we are seeing positive trends and we have a number of countries that have introduced new laws, and we are seeing an increase in law enforcement training, which is encouraging.”
Robert Putman, head of cybersecurity products and services at multinational ABB, said it was not just technology that needed to evolve to protect against cyberattacks, but also people’s behavior.
“People don’t understand what the risk is. They don’t understand how to fix it. Complacency is one of the root causes of the risks and exposure we have right now,” he said.
He said the market had undergone a transition which, like insurance, involved risk modelling. Using such models would allow them to understand the impact of this risk on operational assets, he added.
Interpol President Ahmed Naser Al-Raisi said at the event that the world needs a better exchange of information and ideas to counter global threats.
“When we have a basis to exchange information, even when there are no diplomatic relations between countries, it is important to protect citizens,” he said.
Al-Raisi said estimated annual losses from cybercrime have doubled to $6 trillion since 2015 and are expected to reach $10.5 trillion in 2025.
“This number is more than the natural disasters that occur in a year, plus the profits made by all the drug traffickers in the world,” he said.
As the whole world becomes a village with vast internet space, a vast field for all criminal operations in cyber attacks has emerged, he said.
“My past experience with smart transformation led me to have my first strategy in the organization (Interpol) and to prioritize cybercrime,” he told the gathering.
The move led to ensuring that all 195 member states have systems and skills capabilities that can not only respond to a cyberattack, but also prevent them, he added.
Christopher Blassiau, senior vice president of Cybersecurity & Global CISO Schneider Electric, said the changing nature and fracturing of the global energy market made the sector vulnerable to hackers. “There are a lot of risks,” he said.
Blassiau added that due to the absolute necessity of a green agenda, digitization is advancing at a rapid pace and bringing full visibility into asset performance and better dialogue between man and machine.
Mary Aiken, an expert in cyberpsychology – the study of the impact of technology on human behavior – meanwhile said the unanimity of the internet was one of the main threats facing the modern world.
“The Internet was created on the principle that all users are equal. It’s not true. Some users are vulnerable, especially children and women,” she said. “Young people are taking risks online that they won’t take in the real world.”
There has been an upsurge in cyberattacks in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years, with many businesses suffering greater losses than in other parts of the world. The problem is compounded by the fact that 57% of organizations report cybersecurity vacancies.
A weak line of defense increases a company’s vulnerability to major damage, according to a report released Wednesday by the Global Cybersecurity Forum.
The report also states that around 94% of women in the Middle East would be interested in studying cybersecurity, although only a small percentage of women globally are active in this field.
Speaking to Arab News, Laila bin Hareb Al-Mheiri, Founder and President of Alive Group, Alive Medical, Alive Labs and Alive consulting and education, said women have a high level of emotional intelligence and a unique perspective. on the issues and benefits of cybersecurity. that extra flair.
Al-Mheiri said there is a misconception that women are not qualified to succeed in a male-dominated society.
“I have received praise and support from my male counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It has been nothing but positivity for me,” she said.
IBM Chief Executive Mary O’Brien said that throughout her journey she has encountered opportunity, respect and inclusion. However, as a woman, she said, “I’m very aware of the lack of women around the table and the consequent lack of diverse thinking.”
Role models and allies are key to creating change, she told Arab News.
The report cites over 70% of respondents who said a role model encouraged them to learn more about the industry and pursue an education in cybersecurity.
Many women feel more confident moving forward when they see another woman moving up the ladder, she said.
Ultimately, O’Brien suggested engaging young women in STEM early on and helping to break down some of the stigmas that limit their progress.