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2021 Cyber Threat Landscape In The Middle East

2021 Cyber Threat Landscape in the Middle East

Are you aware of how the spike in cybercrimes is affecting the Middle East? Cyber attacks is no exception as well. Read on to find out more.

With the rise of digitalization in the Middle East, many new revenue opportunities have emerged, benefiting all communities and industries in the region. However, just like every coin has two faces, the thriving economies are not the only consequence of the growing digitalization.

This boost in the Middle East’s economic conditions coupled with the steep increase in the number of internet users has attracted the attention of cybercriminals. This has further led to a spike in the rate of cybercrimes in the region.

Statistics Showing the Severity of Cyber Crimes in the Middle East

As organizations in the region are being hit by different kinds of cyber attacks every other day, the prospect of cybersecurity in the region has never been bleaker. Ranging from high-value CEO frauds and disruptive ransomware attacks to stealthy data breaches, the Middle East is on its way to becoming a hotspot of cybercriminal activity.

Here are a few recent statistics showing just how prevalent cybercrime actually is in this region:

  • As per a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, $6.53 million is the average loss per organization in the Middle East due to a data breach incident, as compared to a much lower global average incident loss of $3.86 million
  • According to a report from Middle East Business, more than 2.57 million phishing attacks were detected across the Middle East in a year.
  • The UAE is the world’s second-most targeted country for cybercrime, costing it an estimated $1.4 billion per year.
  • With ransomware and phishing incidents rising in frequency, the UAE witnessed a 250% increase in cyber attacks in 2020

Recent Cyber Attacks in the Middle East

To understand the extent of damage the Middle East has already sustained at the hands of cybercrime, here is a list of a few major cyber attacks in the region that occurred recently:

  1. RIPE NCC, the regional internet registry for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia, revealed that it suffered a credential stuffing attack that affected its single-sign-on (SSO) platform. The attack caused its networks to be knocked offline. However, no evidence of any compromised SSO accounts has come to light so far. 
  2. It was recently discovered that a cyber attack campaign has been targeting government agencies in the UAE and numerous sectors located in other parts of the Middle East. This malicious activity is believed to be associated with Static Kitten, the Iran-nexus cyberespionage group. This new campaign has been masquerading as the UAE National Council and the Kuwaiti government.
  3. Ever since the arrival of the pandemic, WhatsApp phishing has been on the rise and many UAE residents are becoming victims of these attacks. With so many businesses moving to WhatsApp and even banks using it, this application has become a popular target among cybercriminals.
  4. In October 2020, Phosphorus, an Iranian threat actor, launched a series of cyberattacks on more than 100 high-profile individuals, who were the potential attendees of the Think 20 Summit in Saudi Arabia and Munich Security Conference. 
  5. The Twitter account of a state-run news agency in Kuwait KUNA was hacked and a false tweet was sent out. This tweet stated that the US forces were planning to move out from the Arifjan base in three days. The information was clearly untrue since the Arifjan base serves as the main base for the US army in Kuwait and houses thousands of troops.

What Must Organizations in the Middle East Do to Stay Protected?

With the threat actors’ persistent efforts of scamming organizations out of data and money, it has become imperative for businesses in the Middle East to take the appropriate measures to protect their interests. Here are a few ways of shielding your organizations against these malicious attacks: 

  1. While protecting your organization’s IT infrastructure with firewalls and cutting-edge cyber security solutions is essential, it is equally important to make your employees impenetrable against cyber attacks. If you don’t take measures to stop your employees from falling for a cyber attack, they can take your entire organization down with them. The best way to make your employees cyber resilient is by generating cyber security awareness and educating them in the art of identifying and avoiding cyber attack attempts.
  2. Get a phishing incident response tool to enable your employees to report malicious or suspicious-looking emails right away. Doing this can go a long way in protecting your business against email-based cyber threats. 
  3. Utilize standard email authentication protocols like DKIM, SPF, and DMARC to support the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and protect your company’s email domain against forgery and impersonation. 
  4. Taking periodic backup of all your business data can significantly help in keeping your data safe and ensure swift recovery in case of loss. Make sure the backup is stored securely outside your network or offline for absolute protection. 
  5. Install all the latest software patches, security updates, and antivirus in all the systems to keep malicious actors out. Also, make sure all your software and hardware are up-to-date and running efficiently to eliminate any vulnerabilities. 

These measures can help you secure your organization against all kinds of prevalent and emerging cyber threats. So, it is high time to strengthen your defenses before you lose it all. 

So, what do you think about emerging cyber attacks in Middle East?

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Daniel Segun
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