By Jennifer Bell in Paris
As the GCC increasingly turns to technology to advance and enhance its economy, cyber warfare has become a real threat to nations. Raytheon is on a mission to ensure it does not hinder the future of the Gulf.
They are the unseen, hi-tech spectre capable of disrupting lives, throwing governments and companies into turmoil and shattering confidence.
In the era of the cybercriminals, however, Raytheon is trying to build a shield to protect the GCC from the ever-growing threat of cyber warfare.
Fifty years on from its arrival in the Gulf, the US-based technology and innovation company, which is at the forefront of developing global cybersecurity and defence solutions, is on a mission to become the go-to company for GCC institutions and businesses.
Technology is obviously essential for growth, but it is also a potential gateway to hackers.
Raytheon’s plans for massive expansion of its GCC operation, workforce and reach as well as its tools for tackling cyber-crime – including behavioural monitoring measures that act as a cybersecurity fortune-teller – were outlined as Raytheon exhibited its technology and ambition at the Paris Air Show last month. The company pulls no punches when detailing what dangerous cybercriminals can be to the ultra-connected UAE and its neighbours.
But the company is adamant they can be blocked through a combination of innovation and realisation.
Raytheon chairman and CEO Thomas Kennedy says the company’s cybersecurity focus stems back a decade ago when it had to develop a strategy to protect itself against attacks. It has since reinforced its cybersecurity capacity with the purchase of 14 companies. In 2015, it acquired a company called Forcepoint (previously known as Websense and Raytheon|Websense) to enhance its commercial presence. This is now the world’s second-largest privately-held cybersecurity firm.
Raytheon recently secured a five-year, $1bn contract for the US Department of Homeland Security to help defend “.gov” websites from cyber-attacks. Now the goal is to bring that working knowledge to the Gulf.
“Our aim is to establish ourselves as the cybersecurity company of choice for the GCC, through working with its governments and commercial entities,” Kennedy says. “Cyber-attacks are increasing in the GCC; we are in an era that necessitates more protection. GCC nations recognise the need for enhanced cybersecurity.
“We have one of the best data-leakage protection systems in the entire cybersecurity field, and we combine this with our insider-threat behaviour system, which detects suspicious activity and ensures IP and data is not compromised.”
Expanding in the GCC is pivotal to Raytheon’s Middle East aspirations. It wants to make countries – some of the “most technologically switched-on in the world” – aware that cybersecurity is not a problem that can be ignored.
“Over the next 10 years, we plan to increase our GCC footprint, expanding our current 1,000-strong workforce to thousands of employees. We already work with every GCC country in other areas, but the cybersecurity market is now seeing double-digit growth,” Kennedy says.
“The GCC is experiencing a technological revolution, a key aspect of which is increased connectivity and leveraging technology to drive economic growth and diversification. If this technology is connected, it also needs to be protected.”
Raytheon International CEO and vice president of business development, John D Harris II, believes the GCC is increasing its awareness of cyber dangers, elevating Raytheon’s potential for expansion.
“Cyber attacks occur somewhere in the world every day, and so companies and institutions are engaging Raytheon to help them understand how and where they are vulnerable, and to find solutions that make their network and products more secure,” Harris says.
“Cybersecurity is our fastest-growing market. But we believe there are many people who need our technology but don’t yet have it. Pick an industry – healthcare, finance, oil and gas, telecoms, air traffic control, automobiles – and you will find vulnerability. And the more technologically advanced the GCC becomes, the more vulnerable it becomes.”
Kennedy adds: “Without proper cybersecurity measures, the ramifications are manifold. Cyber attacks can shut an organisation down, whether it’s a hospital or a financial institution – we have seen their impact. Alongside financial loss, that means an organisation loses public confidence and credibility, and their reputation and brand is affected.
“Cybersecurity is a new area and a huge issue for the GCC. Addressing it, understanding the tools required, and how to acquire and implement them, is a huge issue. But GCC governments, companies and individuals need to be protected.”
Defending the GCC
A new arm of Raytheon focussed on enhancing Saudi Arabia’s defence, aerospace and security capabilities may be the company’s first step in helping to shape the GCC’s economy of the future.
Raytheon Arabia, based in Riyadh and established in May, is part of a strategic partnership between the firm and the kingdom, involving cooperation on defence-related projects and technology development to support Saudi economic diversification.
Raytheon International CEO and vice president of business development, John D Harris II, says similar capacity-building programmes could be established elsewhere in the GCC - such as in the UAE - as a natural extension of partnerships that have produced cutting-edge military hardware. Becoming a front runner in defence capabilities is another way economies can flourish and proposer away from the oil and gas sectors, Harris says.
“Partnership is a key component of global business, and the GCC has been very forward-thinking in working with us in the sphere of integrated aero-defence systems and precision munitions,” he says. “The Talon laser-guided rocket, for example, was developed with UAE company Tawazun, and is now in production as a cost-effective precision weapon.
“That was a $100m development programme, which is now in production. We are now building thousands of these and supporting the UAE air force and it has already been used in combat. The potential for sales, thanks to this partnership with the UAE, is limitless. It is a great example of our emphasis on partnerships in the GCC.”