Saudi Aramco and the local subsidiary of US-based Raytheon Company have agreed to establish a joint venture company that will develop, market and provide cybersecurity services in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region.

MEED understands the joint venture company will develop and provide integrated defensive cybersecurity software and hardware capabilities, and perform research and development activities.

“Demand for cybersecurity services is expected to grow as companies move further into the digital space and embrace technologies such as the Internet of Things and Big Data,” says Saudi Aramco senior vice-president of finance, strategy and development, Khalid al-Dabbagh.

Saudi Aramco says it expects the joint venture company to create highly skilled jobs for Saudis and support the kingdom’s long-term economic vision.

Cyber attack

Last week, Italian oil and gas contractor Saipem shut down its servers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait as a result of a targeted cyber attack against them.

The cyber attack, which the firm reported on 10 December, originated in Chennai, India.

Saipem says it did not sustain any data loss from the attack due to its data back-up systems.

Unconfirmed reports stated that the attack could be the latest resurgence of Shamoon virus, which in 2012 wiped out approximately 30,000 desktop drives at Saudi Aramco.

The suspected variant of the Shamoon malware is understood to have infected a tenth of Saipem’s personal computers.

Cybersecurity programme

In March, Saudi Arabia’s Cyber Security and Programming Federation signed a memorandum of understanding with US consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton for a programme that covers knowledge exchange, technology transfer and localisation of capabilities.

The programme entails the provision of cybersecurity professional certifications, advanced cybersecurity courses and the organisation of competitions in order to strengthen the kingdom’s cybersecurity stance.