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Cyber threats

The Sultanate’s resilient cyber security preparedness has helped it to keep Net bandits off the healthcare database. Many other countries were less fortunate as ransomware struck may networks across the world. The malicious code that can worm into massive computer systems through the slightest chink in online security sowed panic across many countries. There are reports that several hundred thousand dollars changed hands in order to save vital data from cyber robbers. The Sultanate rose to the occasion in raising the security levels and keeping the public alert about the possibility of the ransomware wreaking havoc with databases. The healthcare systems, which are generally considered more vulnerable, were the worst affected in many countries. Nearly100 nations felt the pinch as the malware raced through networks and spawned havoc. Banks, hospitals, cargo services and automakers were also widely affected. It is understandable that the malware that the hackers released into the global system targeted the most popular Windows operation systems. The miscreants were seeking ransom in Bitcoin in order to avoid leaving a paper or digital trail. It must be appreciated that senior officials of key ministries met soon after the global crisis hit to review the Sultanate’s preparedness. And the tweets confirming that all government agencies were safe from cyber threats indeed had a calming effect on the people. The Sultanate’s response to the crisis must be considered one of the best as it removed any cause for public panic even while taking preventive measures. The government has also tried to raise people’s awareness about cyber threats and to be alert to the possibility of malware getting into systems critical to businesses and personal use.

In this context it is remarkable that the Central Bank of Oman had already taken stringent steps to prevent threats to online banking. The authorities were quick to launch special programmes to make banking staff aware of cyber security. CBO also directed the banks build sufficient safeguards into their system to prevent data theft and cyber fraud. Obviously, as Internet penetration increases, more human activities go online. The Sultanate has achieved a high degree of Internet penetration with a world-class network. This is encouraging more people to use the Net for carrying out transactions. The efficacy of online technologies is bringing in more online users. While the citizens and residents of the Sultanate have been reaping the dividends of the best in technology, they also have to be aware of the perils of indiscreet use of technology. The cyber world is intertwined with the real one and what affects online activities affects real life too. CBO chief HE Hamoud Bin Sangour Al Zadjali then asked banks to take stringent measures to prevent pilferage of customer data and curb spread of cybercrime. Cyber security is a set of technical and administrative processes used to prevent unauthorised retrieval of electronic information and the misuse of such information. It was reassuring for bank customers to see that the authorities were on their toes in protecting the interests of the customers. It was a similar situation that erupted on the nation the other day with global attack of ransomeware. But the Sultanate has shown once again how to approach a crisis with equanimity.