Group-IB, a global threat hunting and adversary-centric cyber intelligence company specializing in investigating and preventing hi-tech cybercrimes has officially announced the opening of its Middle East & Africa Threat Intelligence & Research Center in Dubai. The grand opening, held at the Habtoor Palace Dubai, was attended by representatives of the local financial organizations, government institutions, and the guest of honor, Mr. Craig Jones, INTERPOL Cybercrime director. Group-IB’s leadership views the opening of its MEA Threat Intelligence & Research Center as a critical milestone toward achieving the strategic goal of building the first-ever decentralized global cybersecurity company with fully operational R&D centers in the key financial hubs.
Group-IB’s office would not only operate just as a sales hub but also as a full-scale regional HQ, offering all core technological competencies and bringing with it the top skills that are found across its global HQ in Singapore and other offices. The new Center, located at the Dubai Internet City, will accommodate 18 employees from key Group-IB units: hi-tech crime investigations, Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) lab, Threat Intelligence, security assessment, Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-GIB), Threat and Fraud Hunting teams, Digital Risk Protection department, and other major divisions.
“The threat of cybercrime is global, with regions being impacted differently,” noted Mr. Craig Jones, Director of Cybercrime, INTERPOL. “By understanding first-hand how the threats are evolving and what impact and harm they are causing in the region, I know that together we can mitigate those far-reaching threats and reduce harm more effectively. Encompassing a wide range of expertise, experience and skills, this HQ will play a pivotal role for Group IB’s research into the regional threat landscape and on-the-ground support for their customers and partners. INTERPOL’s Global Cybercrime Programme looks forward to further strengthening our partnership with Group-IB and increasing operational activities against cybercrime in the region in collaboration with this office.”
Dubai is one of the regional strongholds for the coordination of cross-border efforts against cybercrime and research into threat actors and their techniques. The brand-new Threat Intelligence & Research Center enables local community to leverage Group-IB’s in-depth knowledge of criminal schemes and close collaboration with international law enforcement and cyber police forces worldwide. The company’s battle-tested experts carried out more than 1,200 successful investigations over 18 years around the world enriching the Group-IB’s technology ecosystem with first-hand understanding of intrusion tactics used in the most sophisticated cyberattacks.
Knowledge transfer and hiring of local talents are other key elements of Group-IB’s strategy. The company plans to have more than 50 team members in the UAE within the next 18 months. Leveraging its cyber education arm and successful track record with universities worldwide, the Dubai team will be tasked with investing in local talents by collaborating closely with the UAE higher education institutions. The initial hiring focus will be on digital forensics experts, investigators, and cyber threat intelligence and attribution specialists who are expected to join Group-IB’s MEA Threat Intelligence & Research Center.
“Zero tolerance to cybercriminals has brought us to the forefront of the global fight against online crime,” remarked Ilya Sachkov, Group-IB CEO and founder, commenting on the office opening. “Dubai is a perfect place to carry on this mission together with local institutions and international law enforcement. As part of our contribution to building a vibrant cybersecurity ecosystem in the UAE, we plan to develop world-class research, monitoring, incident detection and response capabilities here in Dubai and adapt them to the needs of the market,” he added.
Group-IB’s newly inaugurated Threat Intelligence & Research Center will serve the company’s existing customer base, which includes over 30 clients in the MEA region within the banking, government, insurance, and energy sectors. More local businesses will now be able to benefit from Group-IB’s distinctive organizational structure and technology ecosystem that includes equally strong product and service arms.
According to the annual “Hi-Tech Crime Trends report 2020/2021,” at least 18 state-sponsored threat actors, including APT33, MuddyWater, and APT41 targeted the MEA region alone. The Middle East has been a testing ground to pilot tools related to attacks on the energy sector and ICT from the times of Stuxnet up until now. In this context, robust monitoring and response for IT and industrial OT networks play a pivotal role in protecting critical assets of smart cities, CII, public and private companies in the UAE. In his keynote speech, Group-IB CTO Dmitry Volkov highlighted other underlying regional cyber trends such as ransomware attacks and sale of access to corporate networks. According to Group-IB’s data, at least 12 victims suffered publicly known ransomware attacks in the Middle East in 2020, with most of them having taken place in the UAE.
To that end, Group-IB brings to the region a product and service portfolio that includes a first-ever all in one solution Threat Hunting Framework for the protection of both IT and OT segments. Another innovation that becomes more accessible to local customers is Group-IB’s Threat Intelligence & Attribution (TI&A), a system designed to create and customize a cyber threat map for a specific company. Every analyst who uses TI&A now gets access to the largest collection of dark web data, an advanced hacker group profiling model, and a fully automated graph analysis tool that helps correlate data and attribute threats to specific criminal groups in seconds. Group-IB’s TI&A has been deemed compliant with industry recommendations for gathering cyber threat intelligence data, issued by the United States Department of Justice for cybersecurity companies, by a Big Four accounting company.
Ashraf Koheil, an industry heavyweight, is the most recent addition to the Group-IB team in the UAE. Mr. Koheil brings over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience in IT&ICT security. He will lead Group-IB’s regional business development team. “The UAE is one of the most progressive and demanding markets striving for continuous improvement in all aspects including government, services, banking with cybersecurity at the forefront,” comments Mr. Koheil. “This makes Group-IB a perfect fit as our mission is all about eliminating all facets of cybercrime, be it financially motivated, nation state activity, or social engineering scams. We expect a lot of our growth to come from the true partner friendly ecosystem that we’ve been creating in the region. We are also planning joint research & development with key government institutions in the financial sector and law enforcement to bring more localized solutions and develop local expertise.” Koheil noted that Group-IB’s investment plan in the MEA region also includes a stronghold in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the company has already built its MSSP hub.