Security & Fraud

Saudi Arabian Hack Reveals Middle Eastern Cybersecurity Weaknesses

Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority

New cyberattacks in the Middle East have exposed a growing number of cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Not only have security researchers noted that hackers are targeting the region more often and with greater severity, Bloomberg reported, but technology can no longer be the only line of defense.

Last month, thousands of computers in ministries across the Saudi Arabian government were knocked offline in an attempt to destroy the data on them via offensive cyberweapons. According to Bloomberg, still-unidentified attackers employed the same malware that was used to erase the data on 35,000 computers at Saudi Arabian Oil Co. back in 2012.

With the expectation that the region will continue to see increased online activity, as well as geopolitical conflicts and tensions, cybersecurity experts believe the cyberthreat will follow suit.

“For the last couple of years, the U.S. Department of Defense has been trying to get the Gulf states to harden their defenses,” James Lewis, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg. “Some of them are in OK shape. Saudi Arabia is not.”

The costs and damages as a result of last month’s attack have not yet been confirmed, but two people close to the situation told Bloomberg that the Saudi central bank, the transportation ministry and the agency that runs the country’s airports were targets.

“We will always have a race between those who are exploiting security vulnerabilities and those who are defending against them,” Wael Fattouh, a PwC partner specializing in technology risk assurance based in Saudi Arabia, told Bloomberg.

Mohit Shrivastava, a senior analyst for information security at MarketsandMarkets, added:

“The rapid adoption of digitization in the U.A.E. and Gulf Cooperation Council countries has made the region an attractive target for a wide array of security breaches.”

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