Last Updated on December 28, 2023 by Ola Precious Akinkuolie
Over the years, Middle Eastern countries have dedicated huge sums of money and resources to the tech sector. Also, the region has seen an irreversible change in the degree to which social infrastructure, financial systems, government operations, educational institutions, and healthcare facilities rely on and use the Internet.
Unfortunately, even with all the Internet and technological growth, the Middle East still stands as one of the most volatile cyberspace globally. Malicious actors are focusing their attention globally due to the combination of a thriving economy and significant digitization. The yearly financial burden imposed by cyberattacks on Middle Eastern countries is increasing.
According to IBM statistics from 2020, the average cost of a cyberattack on organizations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia was $6.53 million. This was 69% more than the worldwide typical. Studies from ResearchAndMarkets show that the size of the Middle Eastern cybersecurity market is expected to record an average annual growth rate of 14% and exceed $30 billion by 2025.
The Middle East has a significant position in the world economy because of its production and transportation of oil and gas, with Saudi Arabia alone producing around 11 million barrels of oil per day in 2021. As such, the area is more vulnerable to cyberattacks that target vital infrastructure like ports, airports, power plants, and oil and gas fields. The Middle East was in the top five worldwide areas in 2022 for the largest percentage of malware obstructing industrial control systems (ICS), according to Kaspersky experts.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are a serious cybersecurity challenge for Middle Eastern businesses since they are persistent and sophisticated cyber threats. The purpose of these very complex assaults is to steal intellectual property and important data from certain companies. The groups of cybercriminals that carry out Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are often well-funded and well-coordinated, using a variety of strategies such as malware, social engineering, and phishing attacks.
The Middle East is vulnerable to APTs because of its unstable political environment and the high value of information held by several institutions. For example, APTs were used in the Saudi Aramco hack to compromise the company’s computer networks, causing significant operational harm.
Internal risks continue to be a major cybersecurity focus area for Middle Eastern businesses. Insider threats include workers stealing data or installing malware into the company’s systems. This is especially concerning in industries like banking and finance, where employees often have access to private client information. Adopting identity and access management (IAM) systems with strong authentication mechanisms is necessary to mitigate this difficulty. These systems effectively control access to sensitive data, allowing only authorized workers to enter.
Lack of Cybersecurity Awareness
The low level of cybersecurity knowledge among workers in Middle Eastern firms is a major concern. The hazards of utilizing digital technology, such as the perils of using weak passwords or the risks of clicking on dubious links in emails, are not well understood by many employees.
Cybercriminals can easily target and attack these businesses because of this lack of understanding. An obvious example of how employee ignorance of cybersecurity issues contributed significantly to the attack’s effectiveness is the cyber incident at Qatar National Bank. Several workers unintentionally gave hackers access to the bank’s computer systems after falling for a phishing attack.
Lack of Investment in Cybersecurity
Budget restrictions prevent many Middle Eastern businesses from making the necessary investments in cybersecurity. Because cybersecurity measures may be expensive, many businesses may not be able to buy the newest gadgets and security precautions. They find it difficult to protect themselves from new online risks. Additionally, some businesses may not give cybersecurity top priority, particularly if they haven’t seen a significant cyberattack. Businesses and companies must prioritize and invest in cybersecurity since the consequences of a successful breach may be disastrous.
The Middle East has a number of significant cybersecurity issues that need urgent attention. They include sophisticated, persistent attacks, a lack of knowledge about cybersecurity, problems with legacy programs, a lack of qualified cybersecurity experts, and figuring out the complexities of government rules and compliance.
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