By Joey Aguilar
Qatar, the UAE and other countries in the Middle East remain among the top 10 most targeted sites in the world by cyber criminals, a security summit was told yesterday.
“The region in particular is in spotlight,” stated Ahmed Abdella, regional manager, RSA, the Security Division of EMC, a leading global IT services company.
Pointing out that cyber hacking is known to be a $100bn industry, he said that cyber criminals, who are financially motivated, went for lucrative targets.
Abdella admitted they did not have the exact numbers (which he described as “quantifiable index”) to measure how big the cyber threat was.
However, he noted that countries in the Middle East, particularly Qatar and the UAE, topped the list of most attacked nations based on RSA’s monthly reports.
Some of the reasons included the presence of multinational banks, oil and gas production facilities, telecom companies and government agencies which are all potential targets.
Earlier studies have revealed that Middle East businesses now face unprecedented levels of cyber attacks, based on Cisco Qatar’s “2014 Annual Security Report”.
It is estimated that the total global threat alerts increased by 14% from 2012 to 2013. A sample of 30 of the world’s largest Fortune 500 companies generated visitor traffic to websites that host malware, with the Middle East’s energy, oil, and gas sector seeing a sharp rise in malware attacks.
McAfee, a global computer security software company, had disclosed last year to Gulf Times that thousands of computer viruses and malwares posed a threat to financial institutions and companies across the Middle East.
It noted that they received more than 300,000 samples of various types of viruses a day. Known as “Advanced Precision Threats”, these malwares have targeted banks, government institutions and different company networks to steal data and information.
“If an estimated 3bn devices are connected to the Internet nowadays, the number is predicted to shoot up to 40bn by 2020,” Abdella said while observing that it opens opportunities for attackers to get through these devices.
This situation, he added, was far different when there were few PCs and applications and in the 90s when the smart phone numbers started to increase.
“Starting in 2010 and entering the era of the ‘third platform’ which is defined by cloud and social media, the attack landscape has changed today,” he noted, citing a case where cyber attackers managed to shut down an Iranian nuclear facility a couple of years ago.
Attackers now have the ability to shutdown a whole city and cause various disruptions to infrastructures such as hospitals, water systems and electricity, according to Abdella.
He said this was one of the reasons why the RSA security summit was held: to help organisations to address security challenges in the region by adopting what he described as “third platform technologies” such as cloud computing, Big Data, social networking and mobile devices. EMC country manager Samer Diya and regional pre-sales manager Alaa Abdulnabi were also present on the occasion.
The security summit brought together more than 150 participants - mostly decision makers, professionals from IT and financial sectors, and other industries.
An EMC survey presented during the summit revealed that 74% of respondents in Qatar agreed that Big Data technology would significantly help in dealing with cyber attacks while 69% were confident of their ability to fully recover all their data.