Dubai 2020

By   Professor John Walker
Visiting Professor , Trent University (NTU) | Jul 09, 2019 11:55 am PST

If you are looking for a development that goes well beyond your wildest imagination in all aspect – then you need to take a look at Dubai with its elaborate and stylish building pushing up from the sands with a speed that can’t fail to impress – with the a showcase of one of the world’s most impressive engineering projects standing smack-bang in the centre of engineering creativity, towering over the ever ever-pushing boarders of the City, the Burj Khalifa. All born out of the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum this impressive City is an example of where dreams and reality meet to some considerable effect.

But it’s not just about the buildings, and roads – Dubai is aiming to be a Happy Place, which is based on a project being headed up by Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr who holds the post of Director General at the Dubai Smart City Office, overseeing the domiciles Digital Integration and Transformation which is evolving the Smart City, Interconnected Public Services and a very advanced usage of Blockchain technologies, with a vision of enabling both local residents and tourists with always-on services which will drastically reduce the wait time and frustrations which are usually associated with snail-mail and face-to-face applications. 

In 2020 the world will see Dubai set out its impressive CV for its State-of-the-Art world which will showcase this region as one the world’s leading City – if not, ‘the’ leading City when it comes to the development of a smart advanced environment.

So far so good – however, when I visit Dubai and engage with professionals from vertical and horizontal organizations, I always ask the same question, which is ‘Look out of the window and what do you see?’ – with a usual response of Cars, Building, Roads and Trees. I then offer a second look, but this normally gets a zero return. I then expand on what I can see – ‘Money’. When any person, organization of country show such massive wealth it will always attract the adverse attention of those criminal opportunists who will see the potential to make a quick profit out of their miscreant methodologies. However, with this region it is not just those who are interested in financial remuneration who will be showing interest, but other bordering nations who have Geopolitical interests in this Middle East Jewel-in-the-Crown, and it is here where I am hopeful that the elements of Cyber Security and their associated vectors of threat actors have been taken into account with the commensurate attention that has been demonstrated to the forward facing aspects of an advanced technological society. 

Not so much a concern, but the raising of a Red Flag to a friend is that where one encounters aggressive and successful growth of technological integrated, digitally transformed worlds, in my first-hand experience, even with much smaller scale projects they have always tended to encounter problems of misconfiguration, security exposures, and other forms of impact which has caused systems outage, or which in the worst case has accommodated an unknown unknown hole to exist which may be leverage in the medium to long term for purpose of exploitation! And thus, where I see such an ambitious an elaborate projects as this, moving toward a Showcase Year of 2020, I am hopeful that those boring conversations that get in the way of commercial delivery are being given their rightful place in the conversation – ‘Security’.

As a conclusion, I would add that in my experience working in the region, I have noted that there has been very little interest in the elements of Incident Response, or Digital Forensics, which to me has implied there may be a localized opinion that such skills and capabilities may not be considered important in this advanced and secure region. However, based on the ‘three’ known known facts, if this is the case, before 2020 it may well be worth reconsidering the just-in-case necessities based on those ‘three’ known known facts, which are:

  1. You Will be Hacked or Compromised
  2. You have been Hacked or Compromised
  3. You have been Hacked or Compromised (but you don’t know it

Moving forward, I wish Dubai, its leadership and the overseeing executive all the very best for 2020, a year in which they will draw the attention from the traveling and electronic world to their region of impressive achievement – attention which will be both good, and bad!