Oman’s National Computer Emergency Readiness Team (OCERT) has been designated to serve as the regional centre for cyber security for the Arab region. Recognizing the leading role played by the Information Technology Authority (ITA), represented by OCERT, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed today between OCERT, in cooperation with both the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the organization of IMPACT (The International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threat), which is the cyber security executing arm of the United Nations’ specialized agency ITU.
The agreement was signed on behalf of ITA, by Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi, CEO of ITA and, on behalf of the ITU, Mr. Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi, ITA’s CEO, said: “Hosting this regional center here in Oman will enhance initiatives and the level of e-security in the Sultanate, in addition to the prestige of the Sultanate globally in this vital area, especially with the rapid development of information technology and communications (ICTs) and the associated risks of electronic transactions.
Al Ruzaiqi added: “The return on investment for the Sultanate is in the classification of the Sultanate as a major regional security hub in the Arab region. This agreement will also serve to enhance economic development in the Sultanate. As the cyber security hub within the region will drive more initiatives, projects and events within the host country and thus increase economic growth. Potentially, this will also attract key foreign investors who are looking to work with high value nations.”
Datuk Mohd Noor Amin, Chairman of IMPACT, offered this comment: “We are extremely proud to establish ITU-IMPACT’s first Cyber Security Innovation Centre in Oman. Besides the incredible support given by the Omani Government, we are truly encouraged by the backing given by many countries within this region to have the Centre hosted in Oman. This certainly lays a strong foundation for increased cyber security cooperation within the region and would help position the Centre, and indeed Oman itself, as a regional cyber security hub. This is truly a historic endeavour for ITU-IMPACT and we are confident that the success of the Centre will be a proud benchmark for our other regional centres in the future.”
On the reasons for choosing OCERT to manage the regional center for cyber security for the Arab region, Eng. Bader Ali Salehi, Director of Oman’s National CERT and Head of the Regional Cyber Security Centre, said: “Positioning the Sultanate as the key cyber security hub within the Arab region, the signing of this MOU recognizes the leading role that Oman’s National CERT has played in the region, with regard to the care and attention dedicated to combatting cyber security threats. OCERT has been active in hosting and participating in conferences, workshops and cyber security exercises. It also actively promotes cyber security in the region through initiatives like cyber security training and awareness campaigns which include: child online protection program, the Ambassador program, and developing in-house technical tools for monitoring the cyber space against threats and security risks.
“OCERT is also a regular participant in international initiatives in collaboration with ITU and IMPACT, and has also been an active participant and contributor to WSIS Forums for the past few years. As well, OCERT was one of the co-founders of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) CERTs. The regional cyber security center will serve a geographical area as stipulated by ITU and IMPACT, to include 21 countries across the Arab region.”
Objectives of the Regional Centre
Among the objectives for establishing this regional centre here in the Sultanate will be to localize ITU-IMPACT’s cyber security services in the Arab region. Through localization, services will be able to be delivered based on a regional language, culture and other issues. It is also hoped that by creating such as regional centre that it will encourage information sharing within regions.. Furthermore, by situating the regional centre here in Oman, cyber security capacity and capabilities will be enhanced through regional collaborations and cooperation. Other aims of the centre include assisting the developing countries in their cyber security initiatives and encouraging research and development in the field of cyber security in the Arab region.
Benefits for Oman as Host Country
Beyond recognizing Oman as the cyber security hub within the Arab region or the potential increase in economic development, there are other benefits for Oman as the host country. As the regional centre, Oman will be able to increase its exports of cyber security professionals both within the region and internationally. This will drive Oman to create more cyber security professionals and also create more job opportunities within the country. As the key cyber security hub, Oman will potentially be able to attract the support of key multinational organizations to support its initiatives within the region.. Lastly, Oman will be given opportunities to be part of ITU-IMPACT’s global initiatives that it is undertaking and also those with its partners. This will include initiatives such as CIRT Deployment, Global Cyberlympics, LDC Development Program, and Cyber Crime Investigations.
Some of the services to be provided by the regional centre include: assisting in the establishment of national CERTs in the Arab countries that have not established such centres yet; providing consultancy in the field of cyber security for countries in the region; conducting specialized and professional cyber security training and workshops; and, offering security assessments to measure the status of cyber security in the region, further assisting the states in bridging the gaps in this area.
Endorsement by ITU
Lastly, for the Sultanate of Oman to host this Regional Centre within Oman’s National CERT, it indicates and confirms the international recognition of the key and leading role played by OCERT and the trust and accreditation given by the United Nations, through the ITU, to Oman. Endorsing this, ITU Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré, said: “It has been our aim to localise ITU-IMPACT’s cyber security services through establishment of regional cyber security centres. Through such centres, ITU-IMPACT will be better positioned to respond to the needs of our stakeholders more effectively and efficiently. This underpins our overall strategy to expand and widen ITU-IMPACT’s cyber security initiatives in the region, as well as to enhance the capacity, capability, readiness, skills and knowledge in the areas of cyber security. The Government of Oman is well known throughout the region for its strong commitment to cyber security. So it is very fitting indeed to establish ITU-IMPACT’s very first cyber security regional centre here in Muscat.”