In early July, the United Arab Emirates – a country known for innovating and adopting new and cutting-edge approaches and ideas – announced that it had created the role of Head of Cyber Security, appointing Mohammed Al Kuwaiti.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE stated that he wanted a government that is more agile, meets the new priorities and reflects the changing world. The creation of this role is a very key part of that.
If you think about it, we have seen cyber threats grow, from phishing and email scams to DDoS attacks on corporations and countries alike, with motives such as election interference and foreign agents actively looking to promote agendas and politics in targeted countries.
To that end it is only logical that countries start to see that having a government department and a cabinet level minister representing cyber security is as key as having a minister of defense or national security. The dangers today are virtual and physical, and these virtual attacks are happening almost hourly.
Cyber crime is on the rise
Let’s do some numbers. The FBI as of April 2020 stated that cyber crime had increased to 4,000 attacks per day, a rise of 400 percent, while Interpol is seeing an alarming rate of cyberattacks. Microsoft reports that COVID-19 themed attacks, ranging from phishing to social engineering, are up to 20,000-30,000 per day in the US alone!
MonsterCloud reports that ransomware attacks are up 800 percent. A Fortinet Threat Mapping and Symantec Threat Report states that the top three countries making attacks are China (21 percent), the US (11 percent) and Russia (six percent). Those countries facing attacks are the US (38 percent) and India (17 percent) – if anything this means that the scope for these to rise and intensify are huge.
The Middle East is also seeing its rate of attacks rise hugely and, as the region becomes more prominent for good and bad, it is seen as vulnerable and lucrative for criminals and foreign agents alike.
Countries like Australia and Belgium are listed as being extremely vulnerable to cyber attack and the list is quite a surprising mix of developed and developing countries.
So, what does this all mean and why is this relevant to creating a role like the one that the United Arab Emirates has created?
A new role for new threats
The world has moved on and while we will always have conflicts and physical crime, nation-states and criminals are turning to the virtual methods to achieve their goals as they are often more effective and can have far better results. If we look at the recent Twitter BitCoin hack as well as the US election and the UK Brexit outcomes, we can see that national agendas can be easily achieved from afar and without a bullet being fired. So, defense takes on a new meaning and while weapons, armies and police forces all have their place, the virtual defense of a nation and its assets is becoming equally important.
Nations have cyber crime and cyber terrorist departments within their police, intelligence and security forces and some may even have them within their armed forces. However, this conveys a message that while cyber is important it is just a part of a wider net of protection around a country.
Having a dedicated ministry with a minister reporting directly to the country’s leadership says a great deal about the level of importance, investment and focus a country places on cyber security. Having such a focus can ensure that they are safer than most and focused on staying in front of in the ever-evolving cyber security environment. It is surprising that – to date – other countries have not created a similar ministry.
Having a ministry solely focused on cyber security sends a message that the country takes its national defense in this extremely sensitive area very seriously. It also shows the world that the nation is investing time, money and resources into cyber defenses and will not be an easy target.
Shaping the future of national defense
This represents a huge opportunity for our clients to become involved at the national level on an ongoing basis. Rather than purely selling and supporting their solutions, our clients can help shape policy and influence the future leadership of a nation in this area.
Given that we in the Code Red Network are focused on the reputation management of our cyber security clients it is truly wonderful to see a country that understands the importance of this area and the vision to anticipate the growing importance of cyber security as a national interest.
In my view we will see more countries adopting this route to reflect an ever evolving and changing world.