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Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off with star-studded spectacle

How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to address pressing global challenges DUBAI: A multiple reuse rocket. A desert farm where food grows using salt water. Pop-up theaters. A hyperloop carriage where passengers feel what it is like to travel in a superfast vacuum. These are just some of the experiences visitors can enjoy…

Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off with star-studded spectacle

How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to address pressing global challenges

DUBAI: A multiple reuse rocket. A desert farm where food grows using salt water. Pop-up theaters. A hyperloop carriage where passengers feel what it is like to travel in a superfast vacuum. These are just some of the experiences visitors can enjoy over the next six months at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Since 2013, when Dubai won over a panel in Paris with its presentation, the expo has easily been the most talked about event in the UAE.

Indeed, Expo 2020 has become a byword for an event to be celebrated not just for the scale and ambition of the projects and pavilions on display, but also because the organizers hope that it will be a game-changer for host Dubai.

The event, which got underway on Thursday with a grand opening ceremony, reportedly showcases over 200 participating entities, including about 192 countries, and features 60 events. Anticipation has grown because the opening has been delayed by a year due to the pandemic.

The fact that the expo is going ahead on such a scale with an expected “25 million visits,” even as travel remains difficult after 18 months of closures and postponements, is probably a feat in itself.

A 4.38-square-km site in Dubai South near the new Al-Maktoum International Airport, the city’s second, has been transformed over the past eight years. The center point is Al-Wasl Plaza, dominated by a massive molded steel dome designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture of the US.

The permanent structure is 130 meters wide and 67 meters tall. It can screen images both internally and externally and will host the expo’s main opening ceremonies.

Expo 2020 Dubai has an ambitious goal: to create lasting change in the world.

“What is extraordinary is the diverse range of programs Expo 2020 has put together — it is a global celebration evident in the events and festivities centered around 192 participating countries all showcasing their own culture, heritage and innovation,” Sumathi Ramanathan, vice president for marketing strategy and sales, told Arab News.

“More importantly, Expo 2020 reflects the inclusive spirit of the UAE, where we have over 200 nationalities living.”

The World Expo dates back to 1851 when the first event, then called the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations,” took place in London.

It served as the first of what are now called World Expos, which have been staged every five years at an international city for a period ranging from three to six months. Dubai is the 34th World Expo to take place and follows the one previously held in Milan in 2015. The next is scheduled to take place in 2025 in the Japanese city of Osaka, which also hosted the 1970 expo.

Today, the aim is to find solutions to global issues and challenges. Countries around the world have built pavilions that showcase their latest architectural and technological innovations, in accordance with a particular theme.

For Expo 2020, this is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” with the aim of exploring possibilities in the spheres of opportunity, mobility and sustainability. Technology on show should be unique, pioneering and sustainable.

The event, said Ramanathan, is taking place at “an inflection point in our society,” when the act of uniting and celebrating together has become a rare event.

“People have not been able to come together for nearly two years now,” Ramanathan said. “We are hosting an event at a time when the world is trying to manage the challenges of a global pandemic.

A general view shows the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 on Sept. 30, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace / AFP) 

“People have not been able to meet, interact, experience, engage, or exchange in a physical environment, and that’s what makes this expo incredibly special — the ability to be able to bring together a platform for collaboration and cooperation at a time when the world perhaps needs it the most.”

Despite the challenges, Expo 2020’s ambitious goal of delivering 25 million visits over the course of its six months — it runs until March 31, 2022 — remains.

Every single country from the original 192 participants, said Ramanathan, is coming to Expo 2020. And it is not just the country pavilions that hope to capture the spotlight.

Visitors can view a host of other attractions, such as a collaboration with Cartier to design and host a pavilion dedicated to highlighting the advancement of women in the Middle East.

Commencing as it does just weeks before the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, kicks off in Glasgow, UK, Expo 2020 predictably puts a strong emphasis on environmental protection and sustainability.

Terra — The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by UK-based Grimshaw Architects, aims to meet the highest available accreditation for sustainable architecture, the LEED Platinum certification.

A view of Terra, The Sustainability Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo site in Dubai. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

There is also Alif — The Mobility Pavilion, designed by the award-winning architectural firm Foster + Partners. It features what it says is the world’s largest passenger lift, which can transport over 160 people at a time.

The pavilion is dedicated to discoveries in cutting-edge mobility devices and has a partially open-air 330-meter track for visitors to view new gadgets and technology in motion.

In typical Dubai style, the opening ceremony featured high-tech performances and an impressive line-up of international stars. They included opera singer Andrea Bocelli; classical pianist Lang Lang; international pop stars Ellie Goulding, Andra Day and Angelique Kidjo; and regional stars such as Mohammed Abdo, Ahlam Al-Shamsi and Hussain Al-Jassmi.

Ramanathan said more than 1,000 performers and technical crew worked on the 90-minute extravaganza, which the organizers hope will change the way people around the world view Dubai and the UAE.

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 on Sept. 30, 2021. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP)

She said ticket sales were strong, with an uptick in demand from countries across the world, including the UK, France, Germany, the US, Africa and the Middle East and North Africa region.

All an overseas visitor needs to be eligible to visit the event is a single successful PCR test and a flight ticket.

“The focus is really on what this expo will mean to you depending on what you are interested in,” Ramanathan said, adding that the programming is designed both for the individual and a broader collective, be it business networking, social and environmental change, knowledge and learning, space travel and exploration, or arts and culture.

What is proposed is an exercise in broadening and expanding knowledge about other people and places as well as introducing the power of new philosophies and ideologies, she said.

“What is most interesting is the fusion of the programming that we are offering,” Ramanathan told Arab News. “You can view the traditional, such as the heritage of each country, as well as the most avant-garde technology and innovation.”

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• Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor

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Optimism in Gaza amid indications of reconstruction acceleration

RIYADH: Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of advanced threat campaigns targeting the Middle East have been discovered by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm. An APT is an attack campaign in which intruders establish an illicit, long-term presence on a network to mine highly sensitive data. The targets, which are carefully chosen and researched,…

Optimism in Gaza amid indications of reconstruction acceleration

RIYADH: Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of advanced threat campaigns targeting the Middle East have been discovered by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm.

An APT is an attack campaign in which intruders establish an illicit, long-term presence on a network to mine highly sensitive data. The targets, which are carefully chosen and researched, typically include large enterprises or government networks.

The region has always been a hotbed for such attacks due to geopolitical factors.

Kaspersky researchers, keeping a close eye on the region for APTs, worked on 68 investigative reports related to 29 cyber gangs actively targeting the Middle East since the start of the pandemic.

The researchers issued 49 threat intelligence reports due to investigations associated with cyberattacks on the UAE, which endured the highest number of reports for all Middle Eastern countries.

The second highest was Saudi Arabia with 39 reports, followed by Egypt with 30. Kuwait and Oman had 21 each, while Jordan had 20. Iraq, Qatar and Bahrain had fewer than 20 reports each.

APT attacks primarily targeted government agencies, followed by diplomatic institutions, the education sector, and telecommunication institutions. Other targeted sectors included finance, IT, healthcare, legal, military, and defense.

Some of the APT groups investigated were Oilrig, WIRTE, Lazarus, and Sofacy.

Fatemah Alharbi, a cybersecurity expert and assistant professor at Taibah University, told Arab News: “PowerShell-based malware are utilized by advanced cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructures in Saudi Arabia.”

She said these cybercriminals were sending phishing emails that contained malicious Microsoft Office files impersonating legitimate entities.

To pass the firewall and the email protection techniques, she explained, these rigged files were protected by passwords and compressed as zip files.

“This approach facilitates the mission of these cybercriminals to take full control of the file system and to compromise every single file there. This means they would be able to control the operating system, applications, and data. Assuming the attack is detected, an in-depth analysis and investigation on the file system is highly recommended as a quick response to recover the system and stop the attack.”

Referring to a report by Bitdefender, a cybersecurity technology company, Alharbi said: “Researchers shed light on a well-known APT cyber espionage campaign that targets mainly critical infrastructures in Saudi Arabia.This threat group is called Chafer APT (also known as APT39 or Remix Kitten). The report shows that these cybercriminals rely on social engineering to compromise victims in Saudi Arabia.

“Technically, the attack tricked victims to run a remote administration tool located in the downloads folder, similar to the RAT components used against Turkey and Kuwait back in 2014 and 2018, respectively.”

Despite these threats, Alharbi said the Kingdom’s cybersecurity resources had proven their ability to face such dangers.

“Saudi Arabia is ranked No.1 in the MENA region and Asia and No.2 globally according to the Global Cybersecurity Index issued by the UN’s specialized agency in information and communications technology, the International Telecommunication Union in 2021.”

This indexing evaluates countries periodically based on five main axes: Legal, technical, regulatory, capacity-building, and cooperation. The Kingdom scored advanced points in all of these axes, she said.

Amin Hasbini, head of the global research and analysis team for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at Kaspersky, said: “Our cybersecurity experts have always been at the forefront of detecting and reporting the latest APT threats. Our reports are the product of their visibility into the cybersecurity landscape and promptly identify what poses a threat.

“We use these insights to, of course, alert the concerned organizations on time and provide them with the protection as well as intelligence needed against both known and unknown threats. As companies move towards digitization, especially due to the pandemic, it is more important now than ever before to know about the threats that are constantly evolving.”

According to a recent report from Kaspersky and VMWare, working remotely during the pandemic made Saudi employees vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In the VMWare report, a survey of 252 Saudis showed 84 percent of them said that cyberattacks had increased due to working from home.

Alharbi talked about methods to protect users from social engineering threats. “Recently, we see a rise in the number of cyberattacks that are based on social engineering. According to a recent report by PurpleSec, 98 percent of cyberattacks rely on social engineering. Cyber criminals prefer to use social engineering techniques that can expose a victim’s natural inclination to trust easily compared to implementing malwares or any other tools to hack systems.

“For that, organizations must strengthen and diversify their cybersecurity awareness tactics, such as publishing cybersecurity awareness content, in-class training, videos, simulations and tests,” she said.

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Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says

RIYADH: Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of advanced threat campaigns targeting the Middle East have been discovered by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm. An APT is an attack campaign in which intruders establish an illicit, long-term presence on a network to mine highly sensitive data. The targets, which are carefully chosen and researched,…

Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says

RIYADH: Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of advanced threat campaigns targeting the Middle East have been discovered by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm.

An APT is an attack campaign in which intruders establish an illicit, long-term presence on a network to mine highly sensitive data. The targets, which are carefully chosen and researched, typically include large enterprises or government networks.

The region has always been a hotbed for such attacks due to geopolitical factors.

Kaspersky researchers, keeping a close eye on the region for APTs, worked on 68 investigative reports related to 29 cyber gangs actively targeting the Middle East since the start of the pandemic.

The researchers issued 49 threat intelligence reports due to investigations associated with cyberattacks on the UAE, which endured the highest number of reports for all Middle Eastern countries.

The second highest was Saudi Arabia with 39 reports, followed by Egypt with 30. Kuwait and Oman had 21 each, while Jordan had 20. Iraq, Qatar and Bahrain had fewer than 20 reports each.

APT attacks primarily targeted government agencies, followed by diplomatic institutions, the education sector, and telecommunication institutions. Other targeted sectors included finance, IT, healthcare, legal, military, and defense.

Some of the APT groups investigated were Oilrig, WIRTE, Lazarus, and Sofacy.

Fatemah Alharbi, a cybersecurity expert and assistant professor at Taibah University, told Arab News: “PowerShell-based malware are utilized by advanced cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructures in Saudi Arabia.”

She said these cybercriminals were sending phishing emails that contained malicious Microsoft Office files impersonating legitimate entities.

To pass the firewall and the email protection techniques, she explained, these rigged files were protected by passwords and compressed as zip files.

“This approach facilitates the mission of these cybercriminals to take full control of the file system and to compromise every single file there. This means they would be able to control the operating system, applications, and data. Assuming the attack is detected, an in-depth analysis and investigation on the file system is highly recommended as a quick response to recover the system and stop the attack.”

Referring to a report by Bitdefender, a cybersecurity technology company, Alharbi said: “Researchers shed light on a well-known APT cyber espionage campaign that targets mainly critical infrastructures in Saudi Arabia.This threat group is called Chafer APT (also known as APT39 or Remix Kitten). The report shows that these cybercriminals rely on social engineering to compromise victims in Saudi Arabia.

“Technically, the attack tricked victims to run a remote administration tool located in the downloads folder, similar to the RAT components used against Turkey and Kuwait back in 2014 and 2018, respectively.”

Despite these threats, Alharbi said the Kingdom’s cybersecurity resources had proven their ability to face such dangers.

“Saudi Arabia is ranked No.1 in the MENA region and Asia and No.2 globally according to the Global Cybersecurity Index issued by the UN’s specialized agency in information and communications technology, the International Telecommunication Union in 2021.”

This indexing evaluates countries periodically based on five main axes: Legal, technical, regulatory, capacity-building, and cooperation. The Kingdom scored advanced points in all of these axes, she said.

Amin Hasbini, head of the global research and analysis team for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at Kaspersky, said: “Our cybersecurity experts have always been at the forefront of detecting and reporting the latest APT threats. Our reports are the product of their visibility into the cybersecurity landscape and promptly identify what poses a threat.

“We use these insights to, of course, alert the concerned organizations on time and provide them with the protection as well as intelligence needed against both known and unknown threats. As companies move towards digitization, especially due to the pandemic, it is more important now than ever before to know about the threats that are constantly evolving.”

According to a recent report from Kaspersky and VMWare, working remotely during the pandemic made Saudi employees vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In the VMWare report, a survey of 252 Saudis showed 84 percent of them said that cyberattacks had increased due to working from home.

Alharbi talked about methods to protect users from social engineering threats. “Recently, we see a rise in the number of cyberattacks that are based on social engineering. According to a recent report by PurpleSec, 98 percent of cyberattacks rely on social engineering. Cyber criminals prefer to use social engineering techniques that can expose a victim’s natural inclination to trust easily compared to implementing malwares or any other tools to hack systems.

“For that, organizations must strengthen and diversify their cybersecurity awareness tactics, such as publishing cybersecurity awareness content, in-class training, videos, simulations and tests,” she said.

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Middle East News

Algeria rejects Western Sahara talks

BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has used distorted exchange rates to divert at least $100 million in international aid to its coffers in the past two years, according to new research. The currency manipulation deprives Syrians, most of them impoverished after a decade of war, of much-needed funds. It also allows the Damascus government to…

Algeria rejects Western Sahara talks

BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has used distorted exchange rates to divert at least $100 million in international aid to its coffers in the past two years, according to new research.

The currency manipulation deprives Syrians, most of them impoverished after a decade of war, of much-needed funds. It also allows the Damascus government to circumvent sanctions enforced by Western countries that hold it responsible for most of the war’s atrocities.

“Western countries, despite sanctioning Syrian President Bashar Assad, have become one of the regime’s largest sources of hard currency,” said the report published this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research organization that focuses on international public policy issues.

“Assad does not merely profit from the crisis he has created,” the report added. “He has created a system that rewards him more the worse things get.”

On Friday, the UN acknowledged that exchange rate fluctuations have had “a relative impact” on the effectiveness of some of the UN programs, particularly since the second half of 2019 when the Syrian currency took a nosedive.

Francesco Galtieri, a senior Damascus-based UN official, said his office received the report on Thursday. “We are carefully reviewing it, also to openly discuss it in the coming weeks with our donors, who are as concerned as we are that the impact of the assistance to the people in Syria is maximized,” Galtieri, team leader of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, said.

The authors of the research published on Wednesday said the amount of aid lost and diverted to Syrian government coffers as a result of the national currency fall is likely to be more than $100 million over the past two years. The data they used to calculate the amount was limited to UN procurement and does not include aid delivered through other international aid groups, salaries or cash assistance.

Sara Kayyali, who researches Syria for Human Rights Watch, called the findings shocking and said donors can no longer ignore the fact that they are effectively financing the Syrian government and its human rights abuses. She said UN procurement processes did not meet due diligence standards, from a human rights perspective.

The Syrian pound has been hit hard by war, corruption, Western sanctions and, more recently, a financial and economic collapse in neighboring Lebanon.

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