UAE records 250% increase in cyberattacks amid COVID-19 pandemic
The United Arab Emirates has experienced an overdrive in ‘cyber pandemic’, with Mohamed al-Kuwaiti, the head of its Government Cyber Security saying that they recorded at least 250 per cent increase in cyber attacks in 2020. He said the UAE was the target of huge attacks from activists against the country after it established formal ties with Israel in August.
“There is a cyber pandemic, not only a biological pandemic,” Al Kuwaiti said at the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC) in Dubai, which commenced on December 6. “The financial sector was one of the most attacked areas, as well as the health sector.” The top cyber security chief said a variety of sources were responsible for the attacks. “We see it coming from the whole region, but one is Iran.”
TrendMicro, a multinational cyber security firm, in its report states that critical public infrastructure and government IT systems were becoming a primary focus for hackers globally, with ransomware being their preferred weapon of choice. It said malicious actors have opted to demand heftier ransoms from targets that are more likely to pay, such as healthcare companies and local governments.
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In regards to the types of attacks, Al Kuwaiti said phishing and ransomware were becoming more sophisticated and increasing in frequency. Experts describe a phishing attack as fraudulent use of electronic communications to deceive and take advantage of users. It attempts to gain sensitive, confidential information such as usernames, passwords, credit card information, and network credentials etc. And by posing as a legitimate individual or institution through phone or email, hackers use social engineering to manipulate victims into performing specific actions, like clicking on a malicious link or attachment. Ransomware occurs when a hacker blocks access to a victim’s file and demands payment to restore access.
Al Kuwaiti said UAE had established a new National Cyber Security Council to develop policies and laws to strengthen cyber security and to ensure that the country is not vulnerable to the types of attacks that could easily affect the society, businesses and government. He added that the UAE has gone through a whole digital transformation.