Technology has improved greatly this century. Extraordinary inventions have invaded the space of technology ranging from ultra-realistic video games to powerful supercomputers. The cyberspace has greatly improved over the years, the invention of the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in 1988 was what started the craze of chatting over the internet . However, new and emerging technologies promising its users complete satisfaction and instant messaging between them and friends and family all over the world presented peculiar threats and challenges . These threats are now cyber security threats that will affect people in the cyberspace. The cyberspace can be said to be the place in which ideas are exchanged and people communicate through computer networks. In this paper, cyberspace security will be defined and the threats and challenges the cyberspace presents, how secure the internet “cloud” really is and the challenges smart cities might go through, and finally, Dubai’s strategy for combating attacks carried out in the cyberspace.
Cyberspace Security: Threats and Challenges
A simple definition of cyberspace was given, this will be enough for the reader to know what is being discussed in the paper when cyberspace is being brought up. However, cyberspace security has not been discussed yet. As mentioned previously, the cyberspace allowed people to freely exchange ideas through its vast networks all around the globe. This allowed journalists to freely report on issues all around the world, people who lived thousands of miles away from one another were able to chat and carry out conversations in real-time with the ability to watch each other through their webcams, and people could work at home, all thanks to the Internet and the cyberspace. Unfortunately, these benefits came at a cost. Hackers could use Social Engineering to manipulate people into giving up private and personal information that will invade their privacy or even worse, give the hacker his/her banking credentials . Other hackers might sniff traffic going through a network they set up for malicious intent (honeypot) in a café for obtaining personal information and in some cases social media account login information . These cyberattacks might affect individuals, but on a larger scale, cyber hackers might obtain large amounts of private data from corporations or even governments and leak them to the whole world on the cyberspace, these types of attacks are called data breaches . It is important to realize the cons that come with the many pros of the cyberspace as they can be financially devastating for people and in some cases, countries and governments all around the world.
The Internet Cloud & Smart Cities
Over the years, people have become more reliant on the cloud, they are servers put together by many companies for the sole purpose of “renting” a chunk of them to the general public. These chunks are to be filled with photos, documents, videos, or any other file the customer wants to store on these servers. They are then accessed through the Internet. This way, people can pay a company a certain amount, and store all of their data and files on these servers for easier access and to backup their files in case something unfortunate happens and they lose all of their files on their laptops or smartphones. The Internet cloud is a great service offered by a lot of companies including Google and Apple. Google of course has the world-renowned Google Drive and Apple has the infamous iCloud. Infamous as it was responsible for the leak of hundreds of private photos of very well-known celebrities back in 2014 . These private photos were released to the public by hackers through the infamous image-board 4chan and websites like Imgur and Reddit. The exact reason behind the breach of Apple’s cloud service iCloud was believed to be an unfixed exploit, meaning the blame was on Apple. However, Apple stated in a press release in September 2014 that the hackers gained access to the private photos of the celebrities through Social Engineering and a method in specific called spear phishing .
Many countries are rushing into the rapidly developing technological age, as governments all around the world want to provide the most satisfactory services to their citizens and tourists by providing them easier access to their services technologically. This made many countries try and build smart cities. Smart cities are essentially cities that use many different types of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors that collect data and then use insights gained from that data to manage assets, resources, and services efficiently . Pair this with an artificially intelligent and you have got a utopian city with great and quick services, and presumably close to zero crime rates. Very convenient plan, yet, a very risky one. Surely, smart cities will be controlled fully by IoT devices made for the sole purpose of making our lives easier, but there will always be people out there who do not want to make life easier on us. Cyber hackers might use services like Shodan, which is a “Google for IoT” and search for vulnerable IoT devices connected to such smart cities. If they gained access to one device connected to the smart city, they will be able to branch out and reach more critical devices. Hospitals in the smart cities will be fully cyber, this is really risky. In 2017, a massive ransomware cyber attack hit a lot of countries worldwide. A ransomware is a computer virus created to block access to a computer, encrypt its files, and will not decrypt them unless the victim pays a certain amount of money, mostly through Bitcoins. The ransomware called WannaCry even affected the United Kingdom’s National Health Services (NHS), where operations were cancelled, X-rays, test results and patient records became unavailable and phones did not work .
Dubai’s Fight Against Cyber Attacks
Dubai has been known for its futuristic view, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Almaktoum, the ruler of Dubai, has always wanted Dubai to be modern and planned for its future to be self-dependent and not very dependent on the revenue from fossil fuel. Which is why Dubai has shifted to many other things that will make them revenue like tourism and theme parks. Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed aims to make Dubai the safest city in the world, both in reality and in cyberspace. Hence, it was only a matter of time before Dubai launches a strategy for combatting cyber attacks waged by international hackers on the cyberspace. The strategy was unveiled in 2017 and the Dubai Electronic Security Centre was launched . Two years after the launch of Dubai Electronic Security Centre (DESC), in 2019, the ‘Dubai Cyber Think Tank’ was launched. This was triggered after a study earlier in 2019 conducted by IBM revealed that 31% of UAE and Saudi firms were not prepared for cyber attacks, and lacked a cybersecurity incident response plan. The study also showed that 49% of the organizations that did have a plan did not test them regularly, leaving them less prepared for any cyber attack incident . The United Arab Emirates also formed the National Electronic Security Authority in 2014, headed by Dr. Mohamed Hamad Al Kuwaiti. The National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) is responsible for the advancement of the nation’s cyber security and is prominent in the defense against cyber attacks.
In conclusion, although the cyberspace has a lot of benefits to offer its wanderers, the threats that come with them should be discussed more often in universities, schools, corporations, and especially government sectors. These cyber attacks might be devastating for individuals and might even affect whole countries. The discussion about what cyberspace is and its security helped the reader understand how some methods of cyber attacks were carried out. The Internet cloud was also discussed and the challenges that both cloud services might face and smart cities. Finally, Dubai’s strategy and its combat against cyber attacks was discussed. The decision for many countries to ‘go technological’ is a great one indeed, however, the major drawbacks and issues related to privacy and cyber security that have been discussed must be taken into account. I personally think it is wonderful that countries and governments are seeing the great potential in prominent technologies, however, I feel like the cyberspace in not fully secure yet and governments should be more careful when it comes to turning cities into smart ones for the benefit of its citizens.
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