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Monday, June 24, 2013

Cyber-retaliation: How security is becoming a priority for the Middle East

Although Arabic music in the UAE is popular, with so many expats living in the country Abu Dhabi and Dubai have become mainstay slots in bands’ international tours, with artists such as the Stone Roses, Metallica, Bruno Mars, Guns n’ Roses and Kanye West having played here so far this year. In April, the analyst group IDC reported that in the Middle East, a lack of adherence to IT security policies by employees was the number one challenge faced by IT professionals, followed by the threat of increasingly sophisticated attacks. The analysts said that with the combined growth of mobile devices used in the workplace that require securing, the increasing sophistication of threats and the (albeit it slow when compared to Europe and the US) growth of cloud services, organisations in the region are beginning to change their security strategy, turning to managed security services. The amount of money spent on IT security is growing at 15 percent a year, IDC said, and in some cases, companies are spending big to protect their networks.


In mid-May, Saudi Arabia admitted that some of its government websites had come under a sustained denial of service attack, with a group called Saudi Anonymous using Twitter to not just claim responsibility but also provide a running commentary of its actions and targets in both Arabic and English, finally declaring on 18 May that: “Today is our last day on #OpSaudi, [Ministry of Interior] will be our last target.”

But while the attacks on Virgin Radio and Saudi government sites are a malicious inconvenience, the big threat now is around the major industries of the Middle East.

But it also brought home to organisations in the Middle East that cyberattacks were a real threat, it highlighted the importance of strong security systems and caused some internal soul searching. If Iran’s nuclear facilities can be hit, then could the same happen to the region’s oil and gas facilities, so important to the economies of the oil-exporting nations, or the power and water desalination plants?

One of the world’s most valuable companies, at an estimated $10 trillion, and the world’s biggest oil producer, pumping about 12.5 million barrels a day from its fields, Aramco was hit by a malware attack that infected 30,000 computers.

Now, security experts elsewhere are warning that the instances of attacks emanating from the Middle East is rising fast, with around 10 US utility companies the target of attempts to take over plant processes (sound familiar?).



Posted on 06/24