Black Hat, the world’s largest technology event, launched its first Middle East edition in Riyadh, with more than 200 international speakers and up to 30,000 visitors expected to attend.
The three-day event, which will end on Nov. 17, has been organized by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, in partnership with the General Entertainment Authority.
Riyadh is hosting the tech forum for the first time in the Middle East and North Africa region.
After the success of At Hack (@Hack) in the Saudi capital last year, Black Hat is boosting interest in cybersecurity, with more than 250 major companies, including Cisco, IBM, Spire and Infoblox, and at least 40 cybersecurity startups taking part.
In the opening ceremony, GEA Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh welcomed participants to the “most prominent technical event in cybersecurity globally from Las Vegas to Riyadh.”
Faisal Al-Khamisi, chairman of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, said that the Kingdom’s tech leadership in the region shows that it is “an ambitious and passionate country for knowledge that is based on youth, and its modern leadership has a clear vision led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
The Black Hat event was launched with six areas: an executive summit, technical workshops, a business hall, the Arsenal, a training area, and an events area.
Mike Champion, regional executive vice president of Informa Tech, described the attendance figures as “overwhelming.”
“What I am seeing from here is a very vibrant, youthful, diverse, energetic, extrovert audience. There isn’t a place I’ve been that I can think of that has a young population that is so engaged, interested in technology, and an emerging professional class,” he told Arab News.
“Because of this, you have an exhibition that, despite only being in its second year, has the highest attendance worldwide. Black Hat US took 20 years to grow to this size. It’s taken Saudi Arabia only one year to get to a size like this.”
The event will feature 23 specialized cybersecurity training courses taught by 50 Black Hat certified instructors.
A hacking contest called “Capture the Flag” will include 1,000 participants striving to improve their ethical hacking abilities while competing for a cash prize of SR700,000 ($186,240).