Cyber crime poses challenge to growth | Oman Tribune

Posted by admin on Jun 1, 2017 11:11:30 AM



Cybersecurity has gained prominence and many institutions are taking keen interest and continuous devotion towards the issue, says Central Bank of Oman Executive President HE Hamood Bin Sangour Al Zadjali in his note in the special issue of the bank’s publication     Al Markazi.

Given the number of daily banking and financial activities in the banking sector it is all the more imperative to create additional awareness on cybersecurity, treating it as the most important issue of the hour. Cybersecurity refers to application of a host of technical and administrative tools to prevent unauthorised use, abuse and restoration of electronic information from institutions.

Enhanced cybersecurity will ensure the continuous availability and accessibility of information systems without any disruptions. It will also ensure protection of the confidential, private and personal data of organisations and individuals and safeguard them from the associated risks emerging out of cyberspace.

There is the need to develop a national strategy to include various segments of society, from schools to universities, so that the students, citizens and others can be taught safe ways of using computers.

“We also need to create increasing awareness on the subject so that these kinds of information technology related crimes can be controlled and curbed,” he says in his note.

The government is doing its part by taking all the appropriate measures to prevent cyber-attacks by issuing frequent advisories on the subject to local banks advising them to take all sorts of necessary precautions and encouraging them to enhance controls on the applied systems making them fit enough to counter risks of information theft.

Greater emphasis is being laid on the importance of enhancing communication and cooperation between different authorities so that they can mutually exchange information on the latest developments and trends in the field and share expertise and knowledge on technological applications, so that cyber-related crimes can be effectively tackled. This requires the banking sector to collaborate with Royal Oman Police, the Central Bank of Oman and the other relevant institutions and agencies which can contribute significantly in halting the increase of electronic crimes in the Sultanate, he adds.

Measures should also be taken to tackle all kinds of challenges that may lead to the abuse of technologies by intruders. The success of the initiative also requires greater commitment to ensure protection of confidential and personal data while taking all the necessary measures to safeguard and protect citizens and consumers against the risks of cybercrimes.

On the role of the Sultanate in educating the community about information security, Director General of Information Security at the Information Technology Authority Dr Bader Bin Salim Al Mandhari said it was vital to monitor information security practices as they affected and impacted the business of those involved in the provision of services through electronic means.

The Sultanate has made significant efforts over the years to create awareness about the importance of information security and the seriousness of information technology related crimes both at the individual and enterprise level.

These efforts were exerted through the assistance of Information Technology Authority (ITA) and other institutions such as the Royal Oman Police and the Public Authority for Radio and Television.

The ITA has established ‘awareness’ programmes as part of its campaign. It also coordinated with other relevant agencies to launch awareness campaigns targeting specific cybercrimes, such as the recent campaign that targeted the phenomenon of extortion-mail.

The ITA recently issued an order asking all agencies to develop awareness programmes for their employees. These were required to focus on security policies and standards which the ITA had issued, including the framework of security designs for government networks and the security designs framework for applications and services of e-government.

Banks also intensified their efforts to educate their customers about information security and cybercrimes in the recent period.

The Internet had become a free marketplace for terrorists, he said. It has made it easier for them to extract money by perpetrating electronic based financial scams.

Attacks of cyber criminals have a significant impact on the overall economy. However, in the presence of a deterrent institution such as ITA, these cybercrimes have faced strong resistance.

The methods deployed by the ITA to counter cybercrimes include commissioning of legal and legislative frameworks, security policies and standards, as well as national capacity-building in this matter, in addition to international cooperation, establishing technical and administrative procedures, as well as management structures to support information security and other defensive procedures.

Information security needed to integrate with coherent mechanisms, procedures and tools that must work together to achieve maximum protection in reducing cybercrimes. The Sultanate has shown serious interest in all these aspects and has worked on the application of best practices and guidelines.

The ITA has developed some policies, standards and security practices, such as the public policy for information security, the policy of the controls of the establishment and hosting of sites and portals of government units on the World Wide Web (the Internet).

There is also the framework of the security designs for government networks and applications of e-government services, as well as other controls and practices.

Al Mandhari says that international joint cooperation at the Arab, Gulf and regional level was going on to address the potential cyber threats and protect the environment from the threat of terrorism. This helped in reporting some electronic crimes against some institutions that were discovered outside the Sultanate.

On the other hand, the Sultanate also informed and alerted some other countries, against instances of some offences against those countries which were detected by Omani specialists.

Too much reliance on information technology has led to creation of a new form of weaknesses in society, in the private and public lives because cybercrime, he said, was one of the fastest growing criminal activities.

The cyberspace has given rise to different kinds of cyber-crimes, granting hackers an easy opportunity to intrude private cyberspaces and commit the crimes.

Some of these crimes include hacking, fraud, vandalism, electronic drug trafficking, manipulation of transactions and legal papers, spying on computer systems, penetrating the security and military institutions, stealing databases of companies and institutions and  destruction of existing information sites.

The Sultanate, like any other nation, suffered from instances of numerous cybercrimes from inside or outside. These included mail extortion, theft through credit cards, intrusion of websites, disabling or distortion of websites, illegal penetration of networks and incidences of malware, especially ransom software that encrypts user files and decrypts the code only after payment of a certain amount (ransom).

The efforts of ITA were able to confront and tackle all those attacks and successfully deter them.

Cybercrime effects include economic and physical damage, political damage through publication of misleading information and theft of classified information, security and military damage like stealing sensitive information, social and psychological harm through electronic extortion, health and human harm like breach of commercial airlines systems and water treatment plants.

There were several constraints limiting the efficient use of modern technology due to the challenges in implementing information security technologies.

These included administrative, technical and human obstacles, limitations that required concerted efforts by the authorities to support information security by developing optimal and requisite regulations and legislations.

Al Mandhari pointed to the need to continuously update the information technology and communication sector and bring in innovative techniques on par with the international developments and standards.

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