Speaking to a panel at the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference in Dubai on Sunday 6 December, Mohamed al-Kuwaiti – head of UAE Government Cyber Security – expressed how the Middle East faced a “cyber pandemic” – he highlighted the UAE as one of the most targeted areas for cyber-criminal activity, suggesting that it had seen “at least [a] 250% increase” in incidents.
As many people have been forced to adapt work and personal circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a reliance on technology and online communication has quickly shown the need for security improvements. Al-Kuwaiti remarked: “As we moved into a full online life, we saw a huge increase in many of those attacks […] There is a cyber pandemic, not only a biological pandemic.
“The financial sector was one of the most attacked areas, as well as the health sector.”
He suggested that “phishing” and “ransomware” attacks were amongst those most commonly occurring across the Middle East, a trend that is also aligned with many 2021 cyber-crime predictions.
With these attacks posing such a risk to the critical infrastructure of the region, al-Kuwaiti also explained how the UAE has formed a new National Cyber Security Council that will focus on developing policies and laws to help strengthen the existing cyber security.
CNBC also state that TrendMicro – a multinational cyber security company – had produced a research report into these COVID-19-related cyber-attacks. The firm highlighted ransomware as a key weapon deployed by cybercriminals as they looked to attack critical public infrastructure and government IT systems across the globe.
The report stated that: “Current malicious actors have opted to demand heftier ransoms from targets that are more likely to pay, such as healthcare companies and local governments.”