Oman’s Arab Regional Cybersecurity Centre is a leader in protecting computer networks
In the borderless realm of the internet, a cyber breach in one country can cause a cascading wave of damage across the world. Countries are working together to share tools, resources and best practices to protect networks and critical infrastructure and to ensure resilience if such a breach occurs.
To address the serious cyber threat, the Sultanate of Oman operates a regional center focused on enhancing regional cooperation, coordination and collaboration. The first of its kind, the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Arab Regional Cybersecurity Centre is hosted by the Information Technology Authority (ITA) and managed by Oman’s Computer Emergency Response Team.
Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi, chief executive officer of the Sultanate of Oman’s ITA, recently spoke with Unipath to share some of the center’s successes and milestones.
Unipath: It’s been more than five years since the launch of the ITU’s first Regional Cybersecurity Centre. Why did Oman decide to host this prestigious center?
Dr. Al Ruzaiqi: The Information Technology Authority of Oman leads the implementation of the digital Oman strategy with a vision of transforming the Sultanate of Oman into a sustainable knowledge society by leveraging information and communication technologies to enhance government services, enrich businesses and empower individuals.
Cyber security has been identified as a critical strategic pillar of Oman’s digital strategy. International cooperation has been identified as a key component of this pillar. Such cooperation will significantly contribute to combating cyber threats and enhancing the country’s readiness to respond and manage cyber threats.
Hosting the regional center is aligned with the outcomes of the 2003 Geneva World Summit on the Information Society’s Action Line 5 that focuses on building security and confidence in the use of information and communication technology (ICT). Additionally, it has also addressed the goals of the ITU Arab Connect Summit held in 2012, where cyber security resolutions were issued to close cyber security gaps in the Arab world.
The establishment of the regional center will enable ITU member countries to benefit from the expertise and capabilities available at the center in Oman and contribute to achieving the cyber security goals of these summits.
Unipath: What are some of the center’s most important accomplishments?
Dr. Al Ruzaiqi: The regional center has delivered more than 116 projects and initiatives in the region, and enabled 26 countries, with more than 8,000 professionals, to benefit from the center. Projects include cyber security assessments, child online protection strategies, regional and national cyber drills, computer incident response team (CIRT) readiness, CIRT establishment assessments, specialized training, regional summits and conferences, and development of cyber security tools.
Unipath: Discuss some of the successful cyber drills the center has hosted or taken part in.
Dr. Al Ruzaiqi: The center plays a major role in organizing many cyber drills (national, regional and international) in collaboration with international cyber security firms. Since the establishment of the center, it has hosted and organized more than 10 cyber security drills targeting more than 22 countries of the ITU member states with technical and management type scenarios developed to address emerging threats and attacks.
Unipath: How has the center helped Oman develop national cyber security strategies or polices?
Dr. Al Ruzaiqi: The Regional Cybersecurity Centre engagements and collaboration with international cyber security firms and organizations in addressing the emerging threats and needs of the region have significantly contributed to sharpening the skills of the Omanis experts managing the regional center. It has exposed them to a wider range of cyber security threats, risks and mitigations strategies and policies. Such engagements have contributed positively to more effective national strategies and polices.
Unipath: How important are international partnerships for cyber security?
Dr. Al Ruzaiqi: Being in a digitally dependent world, cyber security has become a cross border and global issue. International cooperation and timely information sharing is essential in addressing the growing issues of cyber threats and cyber crime. Public-private partnerships are also considered a key success factor and strengthen efforts to mitigate cyber risks and threats and minimize their impacts.
Unipath: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Al Ruzaiqi: Oman has realized the importance of supporting regional and international efforts and initiatives to address the issues of cyber security. We have been significantly contributing to such efforts and initiatives — positioning Oman as a leading cyber security hub in the region and globally. This has resulted in obtaining a number of recognitions and achievements including:
Selected to host the first regional cyber security center of the United Nations’ specialized agency for information and communications technology — the ITU — with a vision of creating a safer and cooperative cyber security environment in the Arab region and strengthening the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies in the region.
Ranked first in the Arab world and fourth globally in the Global Cyber Security Index.
Elected to chair the board of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Computer Emergency Response Team, known as OIC-CERT. The OIC is considered the second largest organization after the United Nations with 57 member states and an observation status at the U.N.
Obtained World Information Society Summit prizes in the field of building security and confidence in the use of ICT.
Achieved multiple regional and international memberships, including with the global leading Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams, OIC-CERT, the Gulf Cooperation Council CERT, the Anti-Phishing Working Group, the Malware Alliance Organization, the Honey Net Project, the global CyberGreen initiative, the Safer Internet Day organization and the Global Cyberlympics.
Established cyber security cooperation and initiatives with international organizations, including the ITU, the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research and Chatham House.
Signed cyber security cooperation memorandums of understanding with a number of countries, including South Korea, Malaysia, Estonia and Singapore.
Regional Cybersecurity Centre’s objectives:
- Drive the adoption of the ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda across the region.
- Assist/respond to the cyber security needs of the least-developed countries in the region.
- Serve as a management center and execution platform for regional cyber security objectives.
- Provide a consolidation center for ITU member states to manage regional cyber security programs and initiatives.
- Develop regional and national cyber security frameworks and policies through regional studies and workshops.