RSA’s Middle East cyber security conference gains its own identity

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The Middle East’s growing use of, and dependence on, digital technology has made the region an important location for RSA’s series of cyber security conferences.

Public and private organisations in the Middle East are finding themselves at the forefront of the cyber security battle, making a conference focused on the region essential.

This year’s RSA Abu Dhabi, which is in its third year, will mark the first anniversary of the cyber security attacks on several Saudi Arabian government agencies. These targeted attacks, over a two-week period, erased data and caused havoc for the agency running the country’s airports, among others.

Linda Gray Martin, director of RSA conferences globally, said the Middle East is increasingly being targeted by cyber criminals. “The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) foiled more than 500 cyber attacks in the first part of this year, so security is top of mind.”

The event, which take places in Abu Dhabi on 7 and 8 November, will feature keynotes by prominent security executives in the region, including the head of group information security at Etihad Airways, who will talk about the company’s journey to securing the cloud, and the network infrastructure and security manager at Sky News Arabia will give his thoughts on ransomware. “We try to weave some of the global trends with the regional stuff,” said Gray Martin.

She said other topics covered will be blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and smart city security. With the Middle East becoming a global pioneer in smart cities and organisations there increasingly investing in AI, IoT and blockchain technology, professionals need to understand the specific challenges to adoption in the region as well as global trends, said Gray Martin.  

“The first event in 2015 was testing the waters as it was our first in the Middle East and we now focus on the UAE and the region to ensure what we talk about is relevant,” she added.

As the Gitex 2017 conference in Dubai last week showed, organisations in the Middle East’s public and private sectors are racing to offer customers services via their personal computing devices. This is particularly the case in the UAE, with its Vision 2021 project to shift to a diversified and knowledge-based economy.

“There is so much going on in the region and it develops at such a rate that it comes with security concerns,” said Gray Martin.

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, director general at the UAE’s TRA, said conferences support the UAE as a global ICT leader. “They also enhance a smart lifestyle in the country in preparation for realising the UAE Vision 2021,” he said. “The importance of compatibility between the efforts of the public and private sectors should be highlighted to ensure the security and safety of our cyber space and the safe use of data for the public and its protection.”

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