Why We Need to CYBER-SECURE the Middle East Region?

When you are home to a majority of the world’s oil and gas supplies, you definitely have to take extra good care of your assets!!! The Middle East Region’s Geo-Political arrangement makes it the most sought after market in the entire world. Its unique placement gives access to all global markets and its monopoly & dominance in the global oil and gas sectors gives it a competitive edge. The region is witnessing digital transformation at unprecedented levels but it needs to be safeguarded by a robust cybersecurity framework.

The Middle East region is home to the world’s biggest Oil and Gas Platforms, Banking Institutions, Telecom Giants, World Class Airlines and mammoth Industrial Control Systems. From the likes of Saudi Aramco, ADNOC, Qatar Gas, Qatar Petroleum, SABIC in Oil and Gas to brands like Emirates, Qatar Airways, Doha Bank, Riyad Bank, Emirates Islamic Bank, STC, Etisalat, Ooredoo and more are witnessing increased digital and cyberspace activities.

For over decades, Oil & Gas has brought enormous prosperity to the region thereby fuelling the Banking, Private Equity, Infrastructure, Retail and Hospitality Sectors. The economic value of transactions carried out in the Middle East region supersedes that of any western developed world. The region has also seen massive digital transformation in the Utilities sectors through Public Private Partnerships. DEWA from UAE, Kahramaa from Qatar, Saudi Electricity Company from Saudi Arabia, OPWP from Oman, KAPP from Kuwait are all embarking on technological developments and support to meet the ever-increasing Power and Water demands of the population.

Being in close proximity to the troubled regions of Syria, Libya, Iraq etc… the GCC falls under a highly sensitive zone when we think of risk exposure to the Oil and Gas platforms. Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest Oil company headquartered in Saudi Arabia witnessed a cyber-attack on its systems thereby crippling its operations and making sensitive email communications and information more vulnerable. This attack destroyed close to 35000 computers and showed the level at which monetary loss can be carried out when we ignore the cyberspace. The Middle East region witnesses scaled up attacks every moment right from on Monetary Agencies, Banks, Power Grids to Petrochemical Plants, Aviation and Telecom companies.

UAE is testing the implementation of the Hyperloop transportation system to connect the economic powerhouses of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Usage and testing of drones and Driverless Pod Vehicles is already underway in Dubai. The Dubai Taxi Corporation will soon be introducing ‘Driverless’ cars in its fleet of taxis. The work for Doha Metro and Riyadh Metro has gained full momentum. All these developments would be futile if it is not backed up by a robust Cyber-security system. A region that is expanding needs its infrastructures and systems equally covered by strong security systems.

The region is in dire need of local Cyber experts who can protect and defend the crown jewels of the region. The region still yearns for international expertise when it comes to information security. It lacks the regional professional acumen in the cybersecurity sector. Nationalisation laws have not helped in bringing up the regional talent for Cybersecurity. The demand-supply gap of Cybersecurity professionals is heavily felt in the Middle East region.

Taking this into context, the Team which created brand MESA — Middle East Security Awards did the global launch of brand MESCON in Dubai, UAE on 12th April, 2017. There was always a felt need to have an exclusive brand which caters to the growing skills gap and the ever-exploding demand for Cybersecurity and Infosec professionals. MESCON was crafted with a vision to reach out to the 500+ CISO’s, 4000+ Cybersecurity Professionals and an exponentially growing billion-dollar plus middle east cybersecurity market to begin with and further expand its global reach. The first launch phase saw 3 Editions of Mescon in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the first half of 2017.

MESCON’s content is strategically designed to address the needs of the growing and developing cyber security professionals. Prominent Topics of highlights at Inaugural Mescon Editions were Security Automation & Orchestration, Adversarial Thinking, Incident Response, Cyber Security for Fintech, GDPR and Emerging Cyber Threats and Attack trends to name a few. Mescon Inaugural editions witnessed participation of International Cybersecurity experts and Regional Professionals who made it a content rich experience.

The team which put together Mescon, also hosts MESA (Middle East Security Awards), an exclusive Awards Gala Show which rewards, recognizes and celebrates the achievements, successes and contributions of the Cybersecurity and Infosec community. Our other brands which support MESA and MESCON are CISO Council and CISO Connect which is an exclusive platform for the Cybersecurity and infosec leaders to connect, collaborate and discuss issues and topics related to the Cyber Security fraternity.

It would always be our endeavour to empower the Cybersecurity Fraternity regionally and make a difference for the digital transformation of the Middle East region.

Harshal Bhalerao

Program Head — MESA & MESCON

Emirsec Ventures | Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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