Home / Cybercrime hotspot

Cybercrime hotspot

The UAE has begun to get a lot of unwanted attention from cyber-criminals and the latest threat report from Symantec suggests that recent high-profile attacks might be just the tip of the iceberg. IT Weekly examines the reasons behind the surge in e-crime

The UAE has begun to get a lot of unwanted attention from cyber-criminals and the latest threat report from Symantec suggests that recent high-profile attacks might be just the tip of the iceberg. IT Weekly examines the reasons behind the surge in e-crime

Security concerns, always a key issue for IT managers, have been firmly on the agenda in the UAE this year, with two major high-profile incidents: first the busting of an online fraud gang that had been pretending to offer financial services out of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), then Dubai eGovernment announcing that it had thwarted a major hacking attack on some of its most popular web sites.

Little surprise then that Symantec this week said the UAE leads the region as both the source and target of internet security threats.

According to Symantec’s latest Internet Security Threat Report — a bi-annual survey that the security firm produces — the UAE is now ranked in the top 50 out of 180 countries for originating attacks of all types, at 46, the same placing it holds for countries targeted by denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. For bot-infected computers, the UAE is actually slightly worse, ranking 44th worldwide.

No other Middle Eastern country comes near these statistics, with Saudi Arabia ranked at 61 for attacking country, Kuwait 65, Bahrain 76 and Qatar 78.

However, as if to prove the old adage about lies and statistics, Kevin Isaac, regional director of Symantec MENA, says that the findings may not reflect so badly on the UAE after all.

Firstly, as he is quick to point out, the statistics relating to attacking countries do not necessarily reflect where the attacks actually originated. “What we’ve found in our report is that the bot networks are on the rise all over the world and the UAE is no exception to that,” he said.

Indeed, the massive rise in bot networks was one of the more alarming findings of the Threat Report, with Symantec finding more than six million bot-infected computers worldwide during the second half of last year, up 29% from the previous period.

The UAE may also be suffering because of the huge attention currently being paid to Dubai, Isaac suggests.

“I think the region is very much on the world stage; the UAE is arguably a little bit more exposed because of the visibility it has got globally, because of its growing financial sector, and because of the high bandwidth that we have in the UAE,” Isaac commented.

Increased bandwidth and accessibility tends to go hand-in-hand with increased security problems, Isaac said. “I think we are going to see a spike in Saudi Arabia in the next 12 months as we see DSL connections and broadband in the home increasing there,” he pointed out.

If anything, the UAE could also be said to be leading the region in another category, with Isaac arguing that it has done more than other countries to combat such cybercrime. “I certainly think the UAE is leading, along with a couple of other countries, in this regard,” he said. “There is a lot of work being done around the legal framework here, and there is a lot of work being done on the infrastructure,” he added.

For instance, the UAE last year passed strong laws targeting cybercrime and Isaac said the country has also put in a lot of effort on education initiatives – although here, he feels that everybody could do more.

“If I gave you a manual showing you how to avoid getting burgled or mugged, I’m pretty sure you would read it but we see a lot of people not bothering to take even basic steps on security,” Isaac said.

As a firm that makes the bulk of its revenues from selling security products and services, Isaac is used to charges of being “sensationalistic” but he insists that this is not the case.

“I think this is an issue that we all need to do more on,” he said.

Otherwise, the next threat report might make even grimmer reading.

Follow us to get the most comprehensive technology news in UAE delivered fresh from our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and listen to our Weekly Podcast. Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter on curated technology news in the Middle East and Worldwide.

REGISTER NOW | Webinar Event | Security you can bank on – Safeguarding the Middle East’s financial sector

Presented in partnership with security and network specialist Cybereason, the second in the three part webinar series will bring together a panel of experts to discuss how banks and financial institutions are evolving their service offering while simultaneously staying one step ahead of the cyber criminals who seek to bring their operations crashing to the ground.

CHANNEL AWARD 2018