Qatar’s strategic cybersecurity initiatives

Qatar faces a daunting challenge in the realm of cybersecurity, with approximately 5.1 million internal and external cyber-attacks and 45,000 intrusion attempts thwarted recently.

This surge in cyber threats underscores the necessity for robust cybersecurity measures, particularly as the emergence of AI complicates the threat landscape.

In response, Qatar established the National Cyber Security Agency (NCSA) in 2021, a pivotal move to direct the nation’s cybersecurity strategy. This strategy emphasises strong corporate governance, bolstering the cyber workforce, fostering international cooperation, and building cybersecurity capacity. The ultimate goal is to create a cyber-resilient ecosystem capable of withstanding cyber threats and ensuring business continuity.

Innovation and research are central to Qatar’s cybersecurity strategy, coupled with a push for increased investment to elevate the national cyber market. Compared to regional counterparts, Qatar’s cybersecurity market remains relatively small, with projected revenues of $182 million (approximately €169 million) by 2028. In contrast, the UAE is expected to reach $756 million (approximately €703 million), Saudi Arabia $635 million (approximately €590 million), and Bahrain $197 million (approximately €183 million) within the same timeframe. This disparity highlights the potential for growth and development within Qatar’s cyber sector.

Building partnerships and enhancing collaboration

Cooperation is playing a critical role in Qatar’s approach to cybersecurity. Effective partnerships with competent partners and service providers are viewed as essential to fostering prosperity and shaping the future of cybersecurity. Khalid Al Hashemi, Director of National Cybersecurity Excellence and Enablement Affairs at the NCSA, stresses the importance of collaboration between industry leaders, experts, and government entities.

International cooperation is also a priority for Qatar. Recently, Qatar and Rwanda partnered to improve public key infrastructure and support research and development in artificial intelligence. This collaboration underscores Qatar’s commitment to innovation and technological advancement on both local and international fronts. The partnership aims to enhance synergy for mutual growth and development, facilitating knowledge and resource exchange in various ICT sectors.

Qatar is also strengthening ties with the United States, a global leader in cybersecurity. In February, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Planning met with the Chairman of the NCSA to discuss enhancing bilateral cooperation. Also in February, Qatar was involved in the identification of 1,300 suspect IP addresses or URLs and the arrest of 31 individuals.

Promoting public awareness and education

A key pillar of Qatar’s cybersecurity strategy is raising public awareness. Khalid Al Hashem emphasises the importance of enabling individuals to face cyber threats through community cybersecurity awareness workshops and incorporating cybersecurity education into school curricula.

Qatar aims to recruit a substantial cybersecurity workforce and develop specific training programmes for business leaders and university students. This approach attempts to ensure a comprehensive structure for all cybersecurity-related research and development activities.

The NCSA is focusing on instilling a cyberculture across all sections of society, starting with the youth. A curriculum for teaching cybersecurity is being developed in 170 public schools, with plans to extend it to state schools. This initiative targets children from primary to secondary school, aligning with the NCSA’s preventive cybersecurity strategy.

Dalal Al Aqidi, Director of the National Department of Cyber Excellence at NCSA, explains that this project is designed to improve digital security indicators in the country: “This project is in line with the preventive cyber security strategy adopted by the National Cyber Security Agency as the most effective working method for improving digital security indicators in the country.”

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