Industry Trend Analysis - Accelerated Cybersecurity Investment Needed In MEA - SEPT 2017

BMI View : The Middle East is moving quickly to embrace new, transformative digital technologies that will lead to economic diversification as well as enhance traditional economic pillars under threat from globalisation. However, the region is proving less adept at protecting and securing new digital platforms from an increasing ly complex battery of threats. This is a major risk because, a s we are keen to stress, anything that is connected can be hacked. And, as more devices and networks become interconnected, there is a growing need to close all vulnerabilities, no matter how minor, as a single incursion can have a widespread impact.

Recent large-scale cyber attacks such as WannaCry and Petya/NotPetya emphasise the ease and rapidity with which relatively uncomplicated viruses can spread across unprotected, connected networks. The Middle East is seen as a lucrative target for ransomware operators, given the high proliferation of large, cash-rich organisations (eg, oil companies) that can ill afford to have key systems deactivated even for short periods of time and which would be prepared to pay relatively inconsequential sums to have compromised systems restored.

The region is also highly politically divided and cyber-warfare is increasingly being used by lone-wolf or collective activists as well as by state agencies to set one country against another by sowing misinformation and discontent via social media and news platforms, stealing politically-sensitive data or shutting down key parts of the digital and - by extension - physical infrastructure. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran reportedly have large state-sponsored teams dedicated to undermining rival countries' digital infrastructures with the aim of causing economic harm and damaging investor confidence. Such allegations are not provable, but there has been a clear escalation in the number of detected cyber attacks on government networks and leading companies that correlate to deteriorating political relationships between key countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

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