Kathy Gibson reports from Gitex – Cybersecurity is a pressing global challenge, but addressing it presents nations with a number of new opportunities as well.

Badar Alsalehi, director-general of the Oman National Cert and head of ITU for regional cybersecurity, points out that a robust infrastructure is one of the pillars of a healthy economy.

“This includes national infrastructure like transport, healthcare, and telecommunications,” he tells delegates to the cybersecurity conference at Gitex Global 2023.

When we think about guarding against cybersecurity attacks, we often focus on the integrity and confidentiality of information, but Alsalehi explains that availability is a third crucial part of the security picture.

“I have worked in a hospital, so I understand that the availability of information is critical save people’s lives,” he says. “This is why maintaining the availability of critical infrastructure is so important.”

At the same time, he adds, when we focus on cybersecurity we forget that attacks on critical infrastructure are not always technical – although the solutions may well be.

“For instance, natural disasters can have a huge impact on critical systems – and these are issues we have no control over, often not even prediction or prevention. The human element must also be considered.

Going forward, cyberthreats will probably continue in the same vein as today with malware, ransomware, espionage, human attacks, viruses, and worms still plaguing our systems. And the economic impact of these attacks will continue to rise.

Alsalehi points to a World Economic Forum study that shows the global digital economy is worth $14-trillion today, probably rising to $28,8-trillion by 2025.

This is counterbalanced by the shock revelation that the cost of cybercrime is close to half of that value; at $6-trillion today and increasing to $10,5-trillion in 2025.

Nations need to be developing strategies to mitigate this impact, he says, including prevention, detection, response, recover, education, and continuous improvement.

The benefits of enhancing cybersecurity include promoting countries’ competitiveness, including their ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and promote research and development (R&D). They will do this because they will be able to build trust and confidence, adding business resilience and safeguarding economic growth while proving both job creation and new economic opportunities for citizens.