Tarek Ali Ahmad
DUBAI: Cyber-warfare allows anyone to hack and take over billboards, television stations and even speeches far from where the conflict is and from the comfort of their own homes, warned information security researcher and analyst Rodrigo Bijou on Tuesday.
“Cyberfare goes beyond just hacking a few computers and systems, it is the manipulation of the very fabric of society, online and offline,” Bijou told audience members at a packed hall Dubai’s World Government Summit.
“Maintaining cybersecurity is a necessity because it goes beyond simple piracy to manipulation of the fabric of society.”
Organizations operating in the Middle East – including media – have been targeted in cyberattacks so sophisticated and so big that they could only have been by governments or agencies operating on their behalf.
In 2018 the British government estimated the global cost of cyber attacks ranged from a “conservative” $375 bln to a top end of $575 bln.
Costs come as a result of a multitude of reasons: media company websites are taken over, bank accounts emptied, sensitive information stolen and leaked, or websites are simply disabled in malicious attacks.
None of these examples are good for any organization or government, but for smaller companies without the back up of highly experienced technical teams it can be crippling.
Bijou spoke of the need for governments worldwide to be wary of “digital vulnerabilities” in order to stay ahead of hackers.
“We can change the dynamics of cyber-warfare through a global collaborative approach, turning hacking into a force for the betterment of humanity,” he said, adding that “Government must design cybersecurity strategies and ensure cyber resilience and work on unified cyber strategies operating in a single system to take care of any digital imbalance in order to confront piracy.”
Also speaking on the third and last day of the World Government Summit in Dubai was Facebook’s policy manager for Europe and MENA on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism, Erin Marie Saltman.
“We must fight the rhetoric of extremism and hatred that is spread through extremist content and calculations,” she said, adding that governments and companies “must constantly conduct objective analysis in the cyber world to challenge the threat of terrorism and extremism.”
“There are penetrating accounts and hate speech, so we must urge governments to do more to address this phenomenon that is spreading in the cyber world,” she said.
Saltman urged both governments and powerful companies to work together to counter these rhetorics.
“We must work together to create a digital fingerprint that contributes to creating a digital society to counter extremism,” she said.