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Communications of the ACM

Arab World special section: Big trends

Cyber Security Research in the Arab Region: A Blooming Ecosystem with Global Ambitions

blue shield hovering over desert landscape, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates, Shutterstock

In a region where political tensions are recurrent, the strive for security is crucial. This applies equally to the cyberspace, where the need for cyber security is magnified by the level of digitization and technical penetration that the Arab region is experiencing. For instance, the Internet penetration ratea is generally higher than 90% and, in some cases such as Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar, approaches 100%. As such, many Arab countries have recognized that the security of cyberspace is an integral part of their economic systems and a matter of national security. This awareness has been followed by policies and actions: In the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Global Cybersecurity Index,b the states of Oman, KSA, Egypt, and Qatar rank among the top-20 countries globally—with a considerable part of the Arab countries consistently ranking higher than many European countries. The strive for cyber security is a global as much as a local—and also Arab—endeavor, and the Arab region is gaining pace in cyber security research efforts and achievements. In this article, we will survey the main initiatives related to cyber security in the Arab region, report on the evolution of the cyber security posture, and point to possible Pan-Arab and international collaboration avenues in cyber security research.

Cyber security can be considered as specific to the Arab region as computing itself: Many of the threats, software and hardware developments, and industrial endeavors relating to cyber security are not exclusively tied to the region but are instead of a global character due to the nature of digitalization.


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