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Exclusive: Building a secure digital future


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International Security Journal speaks exclusively with Aloysius Cheang, Chief Security Officer at Huawei UAE.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the threat landscape all around the world has changed significantly. This can be most clearly seen in the field of cybersecurity, where the increase in the number of employees working from home has led to a huge surge in the volume and complexity of cyberattacks being carried out.

In fact, research from Orange Cyberdefense revealed that there has been a 13% increase in cyberattacks on enterprises over the past 12 months, with a rise in ransomware incidents and, for the first time, a noticeable wave of attacks against mobile devices.

Monitoring showed that of the 94,806 incidents flagged during monitoring as being potential threats, analyst investigation confirmed 34,156 (36%) to be legitimate security incidents – a 13% increase on the year before. More than a third (38%) of all confirmed security incidents were classified as malware, including ransomware – an increase of 18% on 2020.

To help improve the country’s cyber defences, the UAE is implementing a landmark data protection law from January 2022. International Security Journal caught up with Aloysius Cheang, Chief Security Officer at Huawei UAE to find out the potential impact that this law will have on data security and Huawei’s own role in enhancing cybersecurity across the Middle East region.

The era of big data

Aloysius Cheang is one of the most well-known and respected figures in Middle East security. As Chief Security Officer of Huawei UAE, he is responsible for implementing the group’s cybersecurity and privacy protection strategy.

He stated: “Cybersecurity has a critical role in safeguarding connected societies, to create a secure and trustworthy intelligent ecosystem that can rely 100% on the capabilities of artificial intelligence, 5G, cloud and many other cutting-edge technologies. As CSO of Huawei in the UAE, I aim to help build a digitally secure future for the country in partnership with our customers in the public and private sector.” Therefore, the UAE’s soon to be enacted data protection law is of significant interest to Cheang.

The UAE Data Protection Law (DPL) will be introduced from January 2022 and is intended to protect “any data related to a specific natural person or related to a natural person that can be identified directly or indirectly by linking the data.”

It will also apply to sensitive personal data, like race and philosophical beliefs and biometric data such as fingerprints. Like the European Union’s GDPR legislation, the DPL will prohibit the processing of personal data without the specific, clear and unambiguous consent of data subjects, given in the form of a clear positive statement or action.

The DPL will be the first comprehensive federal data privacy law in the UAE’s history and Cheang believes it is a crucial step that needs to be taken: “The UAE’s Data Protection Law is not considered new in the UAE as the country has existing laws, but they are scattered across different regulations.

“The recent enactment of the Data Protection Law and the soon to be enacted regulation compiles and completes the data protection laws in the UAE. As we all know, we are now in the era of big data, therefore, safeguarding data is the main priority for governments all over the world, the GDPR of the EU has given us guidelines on how personal data protection works. Immediately thereafter, data protection laws start to bloom all around the world including in the UAE.”

In the eyes of Cheang, the data protection guidelines that the new law provides will give much-needed assistance to large-scale enterprises operating in the UAE. He said: “The new data protection law and the soon to be enacted regulation will give a single point of reference, a complete guideline on how to protect data and the extent of the protection which is required in the UAE across all emirates and across all sectors.

“Previously, multinational companies apply different standards for data security. It is a breakthrough as it mandates the companies both inside and outside the country to abide by the data protection law of the UAE. The protection of the data privacy will become part of data security in the UAE, making personal data a crucial part of what a corporation needs to protect and safeguard.”

Cheang believes that the introduction of the DPL is yet further evidence of the UAE’s growing role in global cybersecurity. He added: “The UAE is well-positioned as a globally trusted technology hub.  Since the adoption of the UAE Cybersecurity Strategy in 2019, it has provided guiding principles to be implemented across the nation.

“The UAE Cybersecurity Council Chair and Head of Cybersecurity, UAE Government of H.E. Dr. Mohamed Al Kuwaiti has called for a public-private partnership to tackle the ever-evolving challenges in cybersecurity. A public-private partnership will be critical to building collaboration among private, public and government entities so as to establish a globally trusted digital oasis in the UAE. Of course, Huawei will continue to participate in the local cybersecurity ecosystem and support initiatives that benefit the nation and safeguard our digital future.”

Digital transformation

Helping organisations to enhance their cybersecurity will be one of the key focuses of Intersec 2022, taking place from 16-18 January at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Huawei will be exhibiting at the event and Cheang revealed what the vendor will be showcasing on its stand: “Huawei’s theme at Intersec 2022 is ‘Safeguarding the digital future’.

“So we are offering practical implementations of solutions, products and services that will help organisations accelerate their digital transformation and do so securely. That would include not only the servers and storage capabilities that we have, but also many other new solutions in digital power, smart government and various other industry sectors such as smart transportation and logistics.”

To further demonstrate its commitment to raising cybersecurity standards, Huawei has also partnered with the Cybersecurity Lab at Intersec. The Cybersecurity Lab will provide a platform where information security, emergency responses and safety professionals create a community village based around shared needs and objectives. 

Professionals actively involved in cybersecurity will network, discuss and evaluate best practice approaches and tactics to manage evolving cyber threats. Global luminaries will join the stage to share their cybersecurity insights, innovation and expertise. The Intersec Cyber Lab will host a diversity of cyber experts, from national leaders to public & private sector professionals, from cyber connoisseurs to advisors, hackers to responders and cyber economists to corporate buyers.

Cheang explained why Huawei decided to partner with the initiative: “With the merging of the physical world, virtual world and digital world in the metaverse, Huawei thinks it’s very important to bring our expertise and experience to the digital transformation of the security and safety industry in the region, calling for increased collaboration to help build a secure and resilient digital future.”

He concluded: “Intersec, as a leading global security and safety event, has always attracted world leading influencers and professionals to attend. When it comes to cybersecurity for our customers, it’s not a matter of choice, but responsibility to stand by them. We’d like to openly and transparently discuss audience challenges and share our thought leadership and solutions during the event.”

The digital transformation, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has placed even more emphasis on cybersecurity. The new UAE Data Protection Law and the stellar work being carried out by Huawei will help to improve the cyber defences of organisations across the Middle East as we move towards a new digital world order.

For more information, visit: www.huawei.com

This article was originally published in the January 2022 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here.

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