Internet security experts warn that Cyber-attacks are a growing threat for businesses operating in the Gulf, calling for more to be done to protect data.
Governments, businesses and consumers in the GCC are increasingly falling victim of a wide range of Cybercrimes, including software that holds the data of victims and seeking ransom, malware emails, and cryptojacking.
Middle East analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, Edmond Christou told Arab News that Cyber risks are a real threat to Gulf States, with the cost of data breach mounting last year.
Christou said that the region has seen a move toward greater protection from these risks. He noted that Saudi Arabia has set up the National Authority for Cyber Security and Dubai has also launched a cyber-security strategy.
Following growing fears the previous year that the “Shamooon” virus has reemerged, Saudi Arabia’s new authority was set up. In 2012, the Shamoon virus brought tens of thousands of computers at Aramco to a standstill.
Last year, there were also reports of a malware attack against safety and control systems at a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia which could have triggered an explosion.
New research from Symantec has found that 175 emails in the Kingdom are blocked as malicious; a worrying trend considering that the global average is 412 emails.
The Internet Security report published earlier this year found that incidents of spam and phishing emails in Saudi Arabia exceeded the global average too. The United Arab Emirates also struggles with cyber crime, with 1 in every 238 email blocked as a suspected malware attack.
Chief technology officer at Symantec Middle East, Haider Pasha told Arab News the Gulf is seen as a nice-looking target for cyber-attacks due to the number of large and strategically important companies based in the region, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
He said that when it comes to digitization of services, Gulf businesses are in ‘catch up mode’ compared to those in other developed markets.
He added that practically every industry we are talking to in oil and gas, healthcare, finance and service providers are essentially going through a race to digitize their systems
He pointed out that some advancements in cyber-security have been made. Pasha said that there is need to understand data sensitivities and devising ways to protect any weaknesses in systems. He added that he’d seen such security upgrades happening more often in the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He went on saying that governments are also supporting individuals to protect themselves against viruses on their mobile phones and computers. He concluded that consumers are becoming more aware of the basic cyber-security landscape and are working to remain protected.