One of the biggest topical challenges in the research environment is the need for centralized cyber security facilities and globally valid regulated agreements to detect and combat cybercrime and to create cyber-resilience. Increasingly, research institutions and scholars are targets for theft of protected data, extortion to secure these data, and foreign economic and scientific espionage. Thus, the protection of data and the prevention of cyber-attacks as well as conscious handling of information and data is more important than ever. In order to address this pressing issue and to illuminate it from different perspectives as well as to raise the awareness of the individual for the importance of cyber security in the field of science and research, the DAAD Regional Office Cairo conducted a virtual IT-Science Talk for Alumni in Egypt on the 3rd of June 2021. The event catered to the importance and implementation of cyber security in the field of science and research.

In the spirit of the DAAD motto “Change by Exchange”, the talk facilitated an opportunity for around 50 Alumni and partners of the DAAD in Cairo to share views on the topic across national borders. Through keynotes by German and Egyptian high-profile speakers, matchmaking and networking, cognizance of cyber security was initiated from different perspectives. Besides the theoretical aspect of critically reviewing the potentials of cyber security at the governmental and institutional level, practical security tools and approaches for future inter-disciplinary innovative cyber security research was as well presented.

Ms. Isabell Mering, Director of the DAAD Regional Office Cairo, introductory outlined the talk’s concept. By mentioning recent incidents of cyber-attacks at scientific institutions, she proved cyber security as a pressing issue and an imperative task. In line, H. E. Dr Cyrill Jean Nunn, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Arab Republic of Egypt, honoured the talk by enriching Greeting Words. He addressed cyber-attacks among recent news items from the German authority’s perspective, welcoming the German Parliament’s adoption of the IT security Act 2.0 last May. Observing in Germany’s labor market the prominence of Egyptians, “of which not a few work in the field of cyber security and computer technology”, he celebrated the opportunity for bridge-building during the event.

Picture 1: H. E. Dr Cyrill Jean Nunn, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Arab Republic of Egypt at IT-Science Talk in June 2021
Picture 2: Ms. Isabell Mering, Director of the DAAD Regional Office Cairo, (first picture from the top) and Ms. Hannah Schirm, Programme Coordinator DAAD Regional Office Cairo, at IT-Science Talk in June 2021

Dr Hesham Farouk Ali AbdelHafez, Assistant to the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHSR) for Digital Transformation Egypt, held an initial statement and short presentation on “The Role of Cyber Security for Higher Education Institutions”. The need for capacity-building within graduate studies to engineer digitalization of Egypt was highlighted.

Picture 3: Dr Hesham Farouk Ali AbdelHafez, Assistant to the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHSR) for Digital Transformation Egypt at IT-Science Talk in June 2021

Thereupon, Associate Professor Dr Samir Gaber, Executive Director of Cyber Attacks Detection and Early Warning Systems at the Egyptian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) of the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA), and Member of the Technical Secretariat of the Egyptian Supreme Cybersecurity Council (ESCC), presented in-depth the “Comprehensive Strategy for Protecting the ICT Infrastructure in Egypt”, approved for 2017-2021. Regarding the “Current Status for Egyptian Research Institutions”, Dr Gaber assessed the different governmental bodies (EG-CERT, NRTA, ESCC) responsible for executing the current strategy. In reference to the “Practical Implementation in Egyptian Research Facilities”, he noted six strategic programmes, covering legislation, digital identity protection, cyber security research, awareness-raising, capacity-building, and integration of the national IT system. Besides the programmes, several projects (‘Egyptian Anti-malware’, ‘Egyptian Cyber Shield’, ‘National IP Scanner’, ‘Cyber-Attacks Early Warning System’, ‘Wireless System’s Security’, ‘Government Domains Assessment Platform’, ‘Cyber Security Awareness’) are currently in operation.

Picture 4: Associate Professor Dr Samir Gaber, Executive Director of Cyber Attacks Detection and Early Warning Systems at CERT, NTRA and Member of the Technical Secretariat of the Egyptian Supreme Cybersecurity Council (ESCC) at IT-Science Talk in June 2021

The following key note by Dr Ahmed Shawky Moussa, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Cairo University, Director of Cairo University Technology Innovation Commercialization Office CU-TICO, and High-Performance Computing Director of AIC at the MCIT, relating “Cyber Security Challenges and Trade-Offs with Scientific Performance and Productivity”, called for a “balance between performance and security”. Consequently, he urged to examine the limit of implementation.

Picture 5: Dr Ahmed Shawky Moussa, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Cairo University, Director of Cairo University Technology Innovation Commercialization Office CU-TICO, and High-Performance Computing Director of AIC at the MCIT at IT-Science Talk in June 2021

After the networking break, Dr Christian Böttger, Staff Member of Gauß-IT Centre at the Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany, provided practical protective tools against “E-Mail Security Threats”. He advised the alumni to especially pay attention to the domain area’s validation.

Picture 6: Dr Christian Böttger, Staff Member of Gauß-IT Centre at the Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany at IT-Science Talk

The IT-Science Talk for Alumni was rounded of by the keynote of Professor Dr Galal H. Galal-Edeen, Professor of Information Systems Engineering and Holder of Chair on Innovation at Cairo University, addressing the topic “Innovation and Cyber Security”. He pleaded for a holistic interdisciplinary approach to cyber security research to push invention towards innovation. For this reason, he criticized the rigidity between disciplines in Egyptian universities and argued for mobility amongst them. He considered an assessment of the current state of scientific IT research across Egyptian scientific institutions to facilitate collaborations imperative.

Picture 7: Professor Dr Galal H. Galal-Edeen, Professor of Information Systems Engineering and Holder of Chair on Innovation at Cairo University at IT-Science Talk in June 2021

Virtual rooms of the event platform during the digital coffee break were intended to offer the participants the opportunity to network with each other and enhanced the discussion-led exchange with the experts. In break-out room one “Exchange & Matchmaking with the MCIT”, Ms. Samia Moussa, Head of Development Partners Bureau at the MCIT, expressed the Ministry’s matchmaking requests to partner in the Digital Egypt Builders Initiative (DEBI) with German universities specialized in ICT. The initiative offers free scholarships, targeting 1.000 Egyptian university students to obtain master’s degrees within different digital fields at a number of international universities. The event participants which joined break-out room two “Alumni Exchange on the Topic” exchanged on the necessity of awareness-raising and training of cyber security in the field of research, as well as on previous individually made experiences with cyber-attacks.

Picture 8: Break-out room one
Picture 9: Break-out room two

Once again, with the conduction of the IT-Science Talk on “Cyber Security”, a platform was successfully created to support the active and continuously growing network in Egypt as well as to strengthen international academic dialogue and cooperation.