Aramco CEO calls for ‘international standards’ on AI

Amin Nasser, head of the world’s largest oil producer, made his remarks at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The head of Saudi Aramco called for an international set of rules to govern artificial intelligence and protect businesses from security breaches.

CEO Amin Nasser told a packed hall today at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh he believes in “international standards that can keep pace with the rapid development of AI.”

The stakes are high. Aramco was the victim of one of the biggest cyber attacks in the internet era in 2012 that threatened to shut off 10% of global oil supply. 

On Wednesday, Aramco’s venture capital arm, Wa’ed Ventures, invested in SpiderSilk, a UAE startup that offers AI-powered cybersecurity services. The $500 million fund led the $9 million round and signed a collaborative agreement as the state-oil business – and world’s No. 3 most valuable company – pushes to ramp up its cybersecurity offerings.

The Riyadh forum is being held against a backdrop of massive global interest in how the development of artificial intelligence will be governed and the direction of AI regulation starting to take shape. 

Technology leaders are reacting to an executive order from the Biden administration earlier this week, one of the farthest-reaching policies on the use of artificial intelligence ever set out. Meanwhile, G7 leaders also agreed on the same day to a voluntary code of conduct on AI, providing a broader coalition of supporters including the US and Japan for the legally binding rules that the EU is now finalizing under the EU AI Act. And a summit on AI safety is underway in the U.K. today, organized by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

In a decisive week for the future of online safety, the forum in Riyadh is the Arab world’s part of the conversation. 

Saudi Arabia has convened Gulf leaders including Yousef Al-Benyan, Saudi Arabia’s minister of education; Abdulrahman Al-Malki, president of the national cyber security agency in Qatar; and Ali Bin Salim Al Balushi, chief of the electronic defense center in Oman, alongside executives from Chinese telecom Huawei and U.S. cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks in the gilded halls of The Ritz-Carlton. 

The kingdom positioned some of its most prominent national entities – Saudi Aramco, telecom STC and mega-project NEOM – as security leaders in the energy, communications and urban planning industries. 

In the opening session, former Portuguese president José Manuel Barroso, who was also president of the European Commission, warned against what he sees as a decline in global cooperation on cybersecurity. 

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