MUSCAT: The fourth edition of the Oman Cybersecurity Conference took place here yesterday, Thursday, April 18, 2024, under the auspices of Shaikh Ghassan bin Hilal al Alawi, head of the State Financial and Administrative Audit Institution.

The conference, organised by Al Roya newspaper in collaboration with the Cyber Defence Center, the Advanced Cybersecurity Academy, and Oman Data Park, primarily focused on cybersecurity within the telecommunications sector. The conference theme was, "Defending the Digital World: The Cybersecurity Revolution in the Telecommunications Sector.” In his keynote speech, Al Roya editor-in-chief, Hatim al Taie, highlighted the significance of cybersecurity.

“The discussion about cybersecurity is no longer just about presenting challenges and foreseeing the future; it has become a top priority necessitated by the events and changes around us. Cybersecurity crimes, hacking, ransomware attacks, and electronic fraud, among other issues, emphasise the need to place cybersecurity at the top of institutions' priorities.” He added: “The telecommunications sector is at the forefront of sectors that should double their efforts to achieve the highest level of readiness in electronic defence operations due to this sector's connection with the lives of every individual in society, as well as its close ties to institutions, across all civilian and non-civilian classifications.” Badar al Salehi, Director General - the Oman National Computer Emergency Readiness Team (OCERT), shed some insight into cyberattacks in the telecommunications sector.

“Telecommunications ranks third in terms of average weekly attacks per organisation,” he pointed out. “When looking at the challenges and risks, various statistics and reports have highlighted the rise in cyberattacks targeting the communications infrastructure sector. These attacks have become more complex and widespread, posing a significant threat to the safety of communication networks, their users, and the associated or exchanged personal and sensitive data and information.

“The interconnectedness of communication networks makes them an ideal target for attacks that aim to inflict the greatest amount of damage and losses with minimal effort. The global landscape has witnessed several attacks targeting the telecommunications sector in various countries.” According to Al Salehi, a key aspect to strengthening cybersecurity defence lies within keeping up with the rapid development of cybersecurity and telecommunications, as well as investing in modern technology and proactive security measures.

Additionally, he believes that cross-sectoral collaboration is crucial. “Communication and collaboration among different concerned sectors—governmental, private, academic, and research institutions—as well as cybersecurity experts and security, defence, and regulatory institutions, are essential to enhance cyber capabilities to secure the telecommunications sector.” The one-day forum focused on three main axes: proactive measures, information security and the Zero Trust model, and framework provisions for active defences. It was accompanied by a parallel exhibition showcasing local and global cybersecurity companies.

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