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The cost of global cybercrime is expected to exceed USD 6 trillion by 2021 and the urgent need to protect critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks was the focus of yesterday’s InnovItalyUAE session, where government, industry and academic experts from Italy and the UAE looked at how to address this issue.

The Embassy of Italy to the UAE is holding InnovItalyUAE in collaboration with Khalifa University and Dubai Future Foundation. The series of six, online live forums are being held between September and December, and will explore opportunities to enhance bilateral cooperation between Italy and the UAE.

The first forum held this afternoon ‘Cybersecurity: Towards a New Paradigm?’ commenced with a welcome from His Excellency Nicola Lener, Ambassador of Italy to the UAE, who said, “Innovation is the most powerful driver to develop the world economy. It is the backbone of our country and remains a priority for investment. New technologies, platforms, automation and networks allow the development of new business models and help countries to grow, which improves government services and international cooperation. The discussions that began today raised a number of issues around impacts of cyber-attacks and how we can foster cooperation between Italy and the UAE and nations worldwide to deal with such attacks.”

Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice President of Khalifa University added, “We are proud to showcase our faculty expertise in cyber security and the related fields. We believe this forum, for the exchange of knowledge and ideas, will further cement the strong relationship between the UAE and Italy.”

Noah Raford from the Dubai Future Foundation commented, “Our priority is to look at how we are going to tackle the questions and challenges that arise and how they will benefit the region and the world. We provide direct support for companies and take pride in being a world-class destination for testing emerging technologies. We are considering what the next 20 years will look like and how we can explore international partnerships, such as those we have with the Italian public and private sector.”

During the live discussion, eight prominent experts presented their thoughts on the challenges, solutions and opportunities for the sector:

Mohamed Al-Kuwaiti, Chief of Cyber Security for the UAE Government commented, “The UAE is moving towards a digital transformation and thanks to the vision of our great leaders, we want to build a safe haven for fostering all aspects to achieve the objectives of UAE Centennial 2071. Today in the cyber world, a network of thousands can be affected by just one click and we are working to build a culture of vigilance against such attacks. The UAE is ranked 1st in digital competitiveness in the Arab world and 12th globally. Digital transformation is at the heart of our national strategy and we want to create a safe and resilient network. We will help and support many businesses and we look forward in working together to build safe cyber security across our two nations and globally.”

He was followed by Eleonora Faina, General Director, Italian Association for the Information and Communication Technology (Anitec-Assinform), “Since 2016, we have engaged in transforming our businesses in partnership with governments in order for our companies to move forward in a digital transformation. During the pandemic we can see the effectiveness of smart working but this has put a stress on our networks with the increased data flows. During the upcoming years, our cooperation with the UAE will support investment and look at a shared approach how to improve this.”

Ernesto Damiani, Senior Director of the Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems Institute at Khalifa University added, “In the last decade, the UAE has invested heavily to move from an oil-resilient economy to a knowledge economy. We have strong links with academic institutes in Rome, Milan and across the world and we are working to be prepared to revert attacks – a tall order – but we are working to find weaknesses in code and how to prevent people exploiting these. This research is happening in the UAE in collaboration with our Italian partners and colleagues.”

Luigi Martino, Professor University of Florence and Cybersecurity Italian National Lab, Consorzio CINI said, “We are looking to create a community of cyber defenders by investing in young talent and to resolve the skill shortage We want to create an ecosystem between academia and the private sector to address the cyber challenges.”

Shreekant Thakkar, Chief Research Officer at Secure Systems Research Centre, Technology Innovation Institute, UAE, “We want bright people to come and solve the problems and for us to be recognised worldwide for excellence. We have a number of research areas and we are focused on driving end 2 end security and resilience in cyber physical and anonymous systems to ensure safety, and enrich the lives of people in the UAE and worldwide.”

Marwan Al-Zarouni, Director of Information Services, Dubai Electronic Security Center (DESC) added, “We have a culture of collaboration in the UAE. We are looking at what AI can do and proactively developing security that can be implemented across the emirate.”

Salvatore Fiorillo, Senior Consultant, Dubai Electronic Security Center (DESC) said, “Our aim is to make Dubai the safest city in the cyberspace network. Forbes found that 69% of CEOs believe AI will be required to respond to cyber-attacks. We have major challenges, rapid advances in AI and machine learning that are constantly changing. We should not fear only voluntary attacks but spontaneous systems. It is part of our job to keep the systems safe and sound. Dubai is a natural incubator hub and accelerator for startups and innovation plans and we are well-placed to deal with these challenges in partnership with our Italian experts.”

Roberto Baldoni, Deputy Director of the department of Information for Security (DIS) in charge of National Cybersecurity Presidency of Ministry Council of Italy concluded, “Technology is a double-edged sword; so many opportunities but many issues of security that can backfire. Cyber-attacks can harm essential functions and services of a nation. We are working with the UAE to become a cyber resistant nation.”

InnovItalyUAE is a series of online live forums to discuss challenges and solutions in innovation for the following sectors: cybersecurity, space research, smart cities, life sciences, food technologies, renewable energy, water and circular economy. Governmental institutions along with academia and business experts from both UAE and Italy will address common challenges and set the scope for an increased partnership in the above sectors.

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