Cyber crimes have the upper hand over cyber security worldwide, simply because insufficient security data and not enough people with the know-how in the field.
In the Gulf Arab states, cyber attacks targeting key installations cost an estimated $1 billion annually, and these do not take into account losses from hacker group's attacks such as the Desert Falcons that target businesses.
Over 100 cyber security experts gathered in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to talk about the latest challenges of cyber security, during the one day UAE Security Forum, organised by the global technology and cyber security company Raytheon and the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. "We don't have enough human talent for cyber security, so we can't rival our adversaries; we try to subsidise the lack of talent with big efforts in managing security services or centralising information," pointed out Michael Daly, chief technology officer at Raytheon Cybersecurity.
His company recently conducted a survey, mostly directed at university students - 6,000 people between the age of 18 and 26 years old, 600 of whom were from the Middle East and 200 from the UAE - showed that the Middle East is doing much better in training the next generation of cyber security technicians than the rest of the world.
"When we asked the participants if any teacher talked to them about cyber security, two thirds said no, but 40 per cent of the Middle East respondents said yes, which shows that the region here is doing better," said Daly.
Also, only 16 per cent of Middle Eastern students have never been to a cyber security class, as opposed to 45 per cent of students globally.
When asked if they ever spoke to someone in the cyber security profession, only 20 per cent of all students said yes, while in the Arab region 53 per cent got to talk to a cyber security expert.
"In 2013, the Ministry of Education introduced cyber security curricula for grades one to 12," said Eman Al Awadhi, manager of security compliance operations at du.
Yet, according to the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, the UAE's environment for cyber threats is high, largely due to the majority of its society being connected to the Internet - 85 per cent of UAE residents are online - as well as the UAE now being the global leader in smart phone penetration.
In 2014, the UAE saw a 400 per cent rise in targeted attacks, reaching nearly five per cent of the global total, up from less than one per cent in 2013, while Dubai Police received a record number of 1,549 reported cases of cyber attack.
Although the government is facilitating studies of cyber security, the Raytheon survey, found that there is much interest in the subject. "We found that in UAE over 40 per cent of respondents were less interested in cyber security this year than they were last year," said Daly.
Dr. Ernesto Damiani, chair of Information Security Group at Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, said changing the way cyber security is taught may be the answer. "The companies should be there from the start, on campus, to provide students the right capabilities and mentality."
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