IT networks faced 70 million attacks

Muscat, Nov 20 – Oman’s IT security experts handled more than 70 million attacks targeting government networks last year (5,000 per cent increase), said Dr Salim al Ruzaiki, CEO, Information Technology Authority (ITA).
They also dealt with over six million cyberattacks on government websites, a 300 per cent rise.
In view of the serious threat to government installations and networks, the Sixth Regional Cyber Security Summit held at Sheraton Oman themed its discussions on ‘Towards Efficient Cyber Resilience’.
Besides cyber security threats, experts discussed Internet of Things, data security, artificial intelligence and use of technology in health sector.
The summit was hosted by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and organised by ITU, Arab Region, and represented by Oman CERT (Computer Emergency Readiness Team).
One of the outcomes of the summit is expected to be the formation of the Arab Cyber Security Cooperation Team that will address the issue on a regional level.
Many more regional initiatives and agreements with international organisations are expected to materialise at the two-day meet.
Oman is ranked first among Arab countries and fourth globally on the ITU’s global cyber security index in 2017.
“We hope to achieve from this conference, awareness in the public and private sectors and in the critical infrastructure companies so they can prepare themselves and be ready. The conference will highlight on having the right policies in place,” he said.

ITU’s Regional Director Ebrahim al Haddad told the Observer that in a world that is connected, those having mobile phones, tablet PCs and laptops are susceptible to attacks from ransomware or hackers, in which personal information is used against the individual.
The problem, he said, doesn’t lie with smartphones and other technology but with users. “Connectivity is a double-edged sword. We need to educate the new generation, the old generation and the children on the right way of using the internet,” said Al Haddad.
Badar al Salehi, Head of ITU Regional Cyber Security and Director General of Oman CERT said, “The region has been facing a number of cyber threats similar to those in the rest of the world. We have security incidents reported by public sector organisations, private sector establishments and the general public.”
When asked where the attacks come from, he said: “Usually the attacks come from organised criminal gangs who spend most of their time on the dark web. Usually they are generated from multiple countries in order to hide the source of the attack and make it difficult for the local
law enforcement agencies,” said Al Salehi.
In Oman, there is coordination between the Royal Oman Police, Public Prosecution and security agencies, while National Digital Forensics Lab looks into cybercrimes and digital evidences associated with those crimes.
According to Al Salehi, the summit hopes to achieve more regional and international cooperation among different national CERTs attending it as well as the public and private sector partnering with the industry that is specialising in cyber security.
In a keynote address titled ‘Understanding key elements contributing towards building a cyber-safe nation’, S A Donald William Freese, Deputy Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) USA, defined cyber resilience as the “ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions”.
Resilience includes the ability to withstand and recover from deliberate attacks and accidents, and naturally occurring threats or incidents.
The summit, which will continue on Tuesday, aims at creating shared learning and dialogue regarding cyber security challenges and issues, facilitating exchange of information, ideas, solutions and emerging practices that could improve cyber security posture.
It also includes identifying current priority areas in cyber security at the local, regional and international levels.
In addition, the meet seeks to enhance cross-border collaboration with government, industry and critical infrastructure stakeholders that will impact global preparedness.

Lakshmi Kothaneth