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Conf. highlights int'l collaboration to confront cyber threats, challenges

Chief of IT sector at CITRA Mohammed Altura during his participation at the International Conference on Cyber Engagem
Chief of IT sector at CITRA Mohammed Altura during his participation at the International Conference on Cyber Engagem

By Sherouq Sadeqi

WASHINGTON, April 24 (KUNA) -- The Eighth Annual International Conference on Cyber Engagement (ICCE) was held here Tuesday focusing on the experiences across the sphere to bring a "multidisciplinary and global approach to challenges in cyberspace." At the opening of the one-day conference held by the Atlantic Council under the theme "Building Commonality in a Dynamic Global Domain," Executive Assistant Director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch at the FBI Amy Hess affirmed that cyber-attacks have become "more and more prevalent in every investigation, in everything we do and we have seen that threat evolving and growing every day." She added that "while the threat may be constantly evolving, the FBI's approach to the threat is consistent with our experience, our authorities, and our history," noting that the FBI was created in 1908 "in response to changing new technology at the time, the automobile." Regarding recent cyber trends the FBI has seen, Hess says "we've seen the emergence of a hybrid threat, as we call it, or nation state actors who are hiring criminals to achieve their national security objectives using ransomware and other hackers' tools to do so." Shedding light on China, she said "China's goal is simple: to replace the US as the world's leading super power and they did and will continue to break societal laws and norms to get there. In fact, we have seen an increasing level of sophistication in their techniques, tactics and procedures." "Going toe to toe with China, in terms of the cyber threat, is Russia," she stressed. "We're seeing similar threats coming from there as well but with a slightly difference objective," citing recent indictments of Russians for hacking in retaliation against anti-doping officials. "These activities moved well beyond acceptable government intelligence operations and broke traditional norms and the law by using cyber resources in the way that they did." She also shed light on the threat of Iranian cyber-attacks, noting the last November indictments of two "Iranian national criminal actors" for "deploying ransom ware that crippled hospitals, local governments and other public institutions to the tune of $USD 30 million in losses to the US." "In indicting foreign nationals from China, Russia and Iran we are sending a message that we will do whatever is in our power to hold these people accountable," she stressed. "Even when those indicted are not immediately accessible to answer the charges, we will work to expose them and to limit their future criminal activity." She indicated that the US has "bilateral extradition treaties with over 100 countries and we also, in coordination with our international partners, work to dismantle the criminal infrastructure that is used to conduct cybercrime. Our foreign partners are key to those efforts." Hess continued saying that "if we are able to attribute malicious cyber activity to a nation state it enables policy makers to consider all using all tools available and that includes sanctions." She added "we've even embedded cyber agents with int'l counterparts in strategic locations to help us build trust with key partners around the globe, because as we all know cyber is a global issue." "Our focus for the future is finding new ways to work together and take full advantage of intelligence and technology that is available to us to combat this threat," she noted.
During a panel discussion on "Regional Perspective on Cyber," Chief of IT Sector at Kuwait's Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) Mohammed Altura said that Kuwait "has one of the best robust 4G coverage geographically. That is boosting our inclusion in terms of internet access for people and the number of smartphone penetration and subscription quality. Therefore, we have to make sure that we are resilient." He indicated that for job creation, "cybersecurity is always going to help more with job creation because "with threats becoming very diversified, cybersecurity is also becoming the same thing and that will us to create jobs in our economies." He added "for those countries that have a tight economy, it is very important that they do a very simple mechanism for information sharing. Because if countries share information, they become stronger. They make it even more difficult for attackers." "In Kuwait, we think that technology is going to be at the center of our economy. Some businesses think about technology first. Let technology help us before we restructure our business. Things are changing very fast in this regard and this also helps companies to have more control over their spending and to reduce the cost," he remarked.
He added "I believe that this is a journey cannot be made overnight, but we have to make sure that we first have to put it in our first policy." He stressed "having the cybersecurity with all these new trends is very important as the country should make sure that the strategy is very open, flexible, supports new trends and very simple to understand." Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Christopher Krebs said in remarks at the conference that when the DHS was established in 2003, "it was established in response to a terrorist focus threat." "Frankly, nation state threats were not top of mind that understanding, that appreciation of what the world looks like has shifted dramatically," he added.
"We're the nation's risk advisor," he stressed. "We work with our partners to understand what the threat landscape looks like it's about understanding what's going on out there, what the adversary's doing, but contextualizing that risk in a network perspective." He noted "to do this we have to step back and look at what the adversary space looks like." He indicated that "the most active nation state adversaries right now are Russia and China, and then we also have Iran, North Korea and then the extremists space." "As the adversary space continues to expand and grow the good news is the international partnership space continues to grow. Over the last several years, we've only increased our engagements with foreign partners," he remarked.
He affirmed that information sharing "is the minimum bar," saying "we have to get beyond information sharing, even beyond information exchange, and we have to focus on operationalizing cybersecurity, operationalizing partnerships," and that "we're trying to get to a better more systemic understanding of risk." For his part, Commander of the Cyber National Mission Force at US Cyber Command Timothy Haugh said "the ability to partner across all of the elements within cyberspace is a critical enabler for all of us whether that be an international partner that faces the same threats to democracy, whether that's an industry partner or it's another US government element that has a like mission." "What we are focused on in terms of military activities in cyberspace is not necessarily the (DOD) outcome," he added. "It's how can we enable our international partners, our domestic partners and industry, to be able to defend those things critical to our nation's success." On the sidelines of the conference, Altura told KUNA that is it very important to participate in such gatherings with Kuwait evolving in the cyber security and the digital transformation.
Such communities are extremely important to establish a strong relationship in information and threat intelligence sharing, which are very critical for countries, saying sharing information "will make you stronger and will make the attackers much weaker." He stressed that "digital transformation is very important for economic growth and the cyber game along with it is changing. As now with the new innovations that are supposed to reduce the cost of operations and make it more efficient, smart and global it is very important to always suppor