Watch your virtual steps

Cyber crimes cost the global economy over $450 billion, and cyber thugs stole over 2 billion personal records

T V SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR –
Muscat, May 5 –

In cyber era we don’t seem to know for sure, who is real. And adding to the digital excitement, our virtual lives are prone to cyber stupidity, fraud and attacks.
Last year, cyber crimes cost the global economy over $450 billion, and cyber thugs stole over 2 billion “personal” records.
The Middle East felt a chill down its spine when Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, was hit by the dreaded Shamoon virus five years ago. Shamoon partially or entirely wiped clean almost 35,000 computers in that attack, termed the world’s most destructive cyber attack on a private firm.
The Middle East has real causes for concern on the cyber front. Cyber threats in the region are on the upswing, with the average attack size in 2016 significantly ahead of the global average. In fact, businesses in the Middle East suffered larger losses than other regions last year due to cyber incidents.
And where does Oman stand in the cyber melee?
Last year, Oman’s National Computer Emergency Readiness Team (OCERT) detected and handled as many as 5,932 real cyber security attacks and 298 damaging malware in Oman.
The prime objectives of the centre include assisting countries in the region in developing cyber security initiatives and encourage research.
Functioning as a regional security hub in the Arab region is expected to significantly boost foreign investments in the Sultanate’s cyber security sector in the coming years.
OCERT strives to promote cyber security in the Sultanate at the individual and organisational levels through initiatives such as cyber security training and awareness campaigns, including child online protection programmes, and developing in-house technical tools for monitoring the cyber space against threats and security risks. Its dedicated website for kids online security offers valuable advice and tips on Internet threats and security, the dos and don’ts of online engagement, Internet addiction, and safe chatting, to name a few.
In the fight against cyber breaches and threats, what is crucial is empowerment through awareness. And as such, the Safer Internet Day (SID) is fervently observed the world over towards ensuring online safety.
An initiative of the EU SafeBorders project, Safer Internet Day is today a global effort by some 100 countries to thwart cyber hooliganism.
In the Sultanate, Oman National CERT takes the mission forward by engaging stakeholders including the young generation in promoting cyber security awareness and more responsible use of the Internet.
OCERT’s Cyber Security Ambassadors is an ambitious project that brings together the academic fraternity, online security professionals, the industrial sector and public towards creating an effective knowledge sharing platform for cyber security challenges and solutions. Its objectives include building communication channels between college students and information security professionals, providing local information security professionals ample opportunity to present their research, promoting research and development and creating a cyber security database.
This is quite significant in the context of a PwC report that says, while companies in the Middle East are investing in cyber technology and protection such as cyber insurance, they are often not supported by people, processes and governance, which is required to provide real security, and results in creating a false sense of security.
With Oman increasingly adopting e-governance and encouraging the public to use e-transactions such as those offered by MoCI’s Invest Easy, the need to boost public confidence in online safety can’t be overstated, and herein lies the significance of OCERT.