Thabet Bakheet, Head of Information Security, Central Bank of UAE
Nasser Sarris, General Manager of UAE Banks Federation

UAE Banks Federation’s ‘HIMAYA - Cyber Threat Intelligence Collaboration’ forum addresses cybersecurity challenges

More than 100 information security and cybersecurity experts attended ‘HIMAYA - Cyber ​​Threat Intelligence Collaboration’ forum, hosted by UAE Banks Federation (UBF), a professional representative body comprising 48 member banks operating in the UAE, in association with Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal, on Monday, 11th December, at Conrad Hotel, Dubai.

The one-day forum, which brought together industry specialists, as well as financial institutions in UAE and the region, discussed the enormous challenges facing the banking and financial services sector. The participants recognized the importance of cooperation and information sharing to fight the growing menace of cyber threats.

In his welcome address, Mr. Nasser Sarris, General Manager of UAE Banks Federation said the country’s banking sector has been largely successful in warding off major cyberattacks despite increasing incidents”.

“Cybercriminals are posing an increasing threat to all businesses alike around the globe. It should come as no surprise that the financial industry is a top target for attackers; with the entry of new players and technologies like fintech and blockchain, the financial services sector has become a magnet for hackers and fraudsters.  While there are many reasons why the industry continues to face threats despite counter efforts, adoption of new technologies without proper security mechanism in place, unencrypted data and third-party services continue to be cited as key contributors to the vulnerability of financial institutions to cybercrimes.” Mr. Nasser Sarris, General Manager of UAE Banks Federation, said.

“UBF has put all possible efforts against cyber threats considering it as a top priority, and UBF initiative launched this year of cyber threat intelligence sharing platform is a step forward to protect the cyber space of banks” he added.

William Carter, Deputy Director and Fellow, Technology Policy Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies, Washington, D.C., the United States, delivered the keynote address themed ‘Forces Shaping the Cyber Threat Landscape for Financial Institutions. Mr. Carter said "while the emergence of new technologies promises to transform the sector, it also brings new security challenges that banks will need to prepare for. He urged banks to make proactive investments in cybersecurity, and to incorporate cybersecurity into the design of new products and services from the outset.”

The panel, titled ‘Key Aspects of UBF Information Sharing Platform’ and moderated by Talat Hafiz, Secretary General of the Media & Banking Awareness Committee, a subcommittee of the Banks’ Chairmen Committee of Saudi Banks, hailed UBF’s initiative to create a platform to defend the banks in UAE from cyber threats.

The panel’s speakers Rinaldo R Oliveira, Vice Chairman of Information Security Committee, UAE Banks Federation; John Salomon, Regional Director EMEA, FS-ISAC, and Hugh Njemanze, CEO, Anomali, assessed how the Middle East’s first Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) was helping financial institutions to reduce cyber risks and make more informed decisions and investment strategies while protecting their business and operational environments.

The UBF-ISAC helps to order and interpret the ever-growing amount of threat data available to organizations from internal and third-party sources. Launched in September, the platform currently enables cybersecurity intelligence among 13 founding UBF member banks.

Thabet Bakheet, Head of Information Security, Central Bank of UAE, Pak-Wai Fok, Head of Threat Intelligence, Standard Chartered Bank, were speakers on another panel titled ‘The Role of Regulations & Legislations in Enhancing Cyber Security in the Banking Industry’ that was moderated by Hiba Fayad, Chief Information Officer, Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Co.. The panel stressed that regulatory reforms were imperative to deal with cyber threat landscape that is constantly evolving to introduce new tactics and tools to ridicule incumbent defense mechanisms.

The forum also featured a number of internationally-acclaimed speakers, including Eddie Schwartz, Executive Vice President of Cyber Services, DarkMatter; Haidar Pasha
Director for Security Strategy covering Emerging Markets, Symantec; Jakob S. Fonsbol
Business Development Manager, CSIS; Stuart Davis, Director of Global Services & Intelligence EMEA, FireEye and Matthieu Suiche, Founder, Comea Technologies.

The event concluded by closing remarks by Patrice Favre, Chairman of Information Security, UAE Banks Federation, who highlighted the significance of industry events like HIMAYA forum that enable banks and financial services institutions to keep up with the pace of growing challenges.

About UAE Banks Federation

Established in 1982, the UAE Banks Federation is a professional representative body comprising 48 member banks operating in the UAE. The Federation advocates all banks' interests, and enhances cooperation and coordination among them, in order to promote and upgrade the UAE's banking industry for the benefit of the banking sector, its customers, and the national economy.

The UAE Banks Federation's mission and objectives are focused on developing and representing the interests of the member banks and defending their rights. The federation plays a major role in raising public awareness around the beneficial role and distinctive financial, economic and social contribution of the banks to the UAE.

The Federation has an Advisory Council consisting of 28 Bank CEOs which oversees the implementation of the policies, follows up on UBF's activities and makes necessary decisions, and 19 specialized technical committees who discuss all relevant banking issues.