Majority of the Middle Eastern countries, especially those in the GCC, are a hot target for cyber attacks. According to a newly-released report by Trend Micro, ransomware remains a widespread threat in the UAE with the country accounting for 2.4 million of the 1.7 billion ransomware attacks detected globally in Q1 of 2018. The same trend was seen in Kuwait where 1.9 million of the worldwide threats were detected, while Bahrain and Oman accounted for 1.2 million and 534,806 respectively of the total ransomware in the same period.
Gulf countries have been leading the charge in the region’s massive modernization plans, which primarily aim to accelerate economic diversification and achieve sustainable growth. The rapid pace of digitization among the GCC naturally brings with it growing exposure to risks and vulnerabilities of cyber attacks, and Trend Micro cautions that data breaches and cybercrimes have the potential to derail the progress of these modernization initiatives.
“As GCC economies shift to digital, securing the cyberspace becomes all the more paramount as there is an increased risk of calculated and premeditated cyberattacks. What we are witnessing now in the Gulf is a long-term transformation and stakeholders ought to regard security as a key infrastructure necessary for a smart city to thrive. Device penetration, interconnectivity, massive data – all of these have started to proliferate and more so in the near future. Governments and businesses should continue to strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities in order to truly evolve and realize the desired outcomes of these initiatives,” commented Cherif Djerboua, Regional Tech Leader, Trend Micro AMEA.
The security vendor reported a spike in the number of malware detected in the first quarter of the year. UAE had a total of 1.6 million malware, while Kuwait had 465,058 infected files. Bahrain, meanwhile, had 202,241 malware, with Oman coming in close with 161,055 malware threats. An uptrend in online banking malware was reflected in the Trend Micro report with UAE getting 433; Kuwait, 90; Bahrain, 56; and Oman 46. Macro malware figures during the same period are UAE – 263, Kuwait – 46, Bahrain – 45, and Oman – 7.
A worrying concern for Trend Micro is the increasing number of malicious URL victims. UAE registered close to a million with 988,264 URL victims; Kuwait had 224,916; while Bahrain and Oman have 26,860 and 83,388 detections respectively. For malicious URLs detected in the GCC, Trend Micro got 5,314 in the UAE and 214 in Kuwait. In Bahrain, the company detected 523 and for Oman, 37.
“It is encouraging to see that both government entities and corporations are recognizing the need to step up their cybersecurity game. Still, we have to be on guard at all times and be prepared to handle major attacks as cybercrimes are also evolving. Trend Micro is committed to raise awareness and share best practices in order to beef up the industry’s cybersecurity capabilities,” Djerboua said.