Cybersecurity experts warn that scams and ransomware incidence on the rise in Middle East

Cybersecurity experts warn that scams and ransomware incidence on the rise in Middle East

Cybersecurity experts have warned that scams and ransomware incidents are quickly becoming the most common cyberattack method on businesses in the Middle East.

Ashraf Koheil, Director of the Middle East and Africa Business for cybersecurity firm Group-IB spoke to Al Arabiya English about the risks facing the region’s cybersecurity landscape and how best to avoid falling victim to cybercriminals.

As business is doing better than ever, Middle East companies have become victims of their own success and are now seen as likely targets for cyber attacks.

Koheil said: “Our region is booming. If you look at the United Arab Emirates for example, we have Expo 2020 Dubai which has been a huge success, among many other things happening in the region like the amazing number of new startups, companies and megabrands targeting an expansion into the region so it is very likely that this will attract the cybercrime underworld.”

He added: “[The region has] booming economies, too many new businesses and startups being set up, a lot of companies transforming and moving [their services] online and so forth.”

In 2021, Group-IB found that at least 50 organisations in the Middle East fell prey to ransomware attacks. Compared to the previous year, this marked an increase of 85 percent. Koheil said the good news was that Group-IB has observed many organisations in the banking, financial services, government and critical infrastructure departments starting to prepare for these kinds of attacks, making it more difficult for attackers to bypass their systems.

Group-IB stated that it is aware of at least 71 brands from 36 countries impersonated by affiliate program members. Phishing and scam websites create by affiliate program members most often mimic marketplaces (69.5 percent), delivery services (17.2 percent), and carpooling services (12.8 percent).

In the Middle East alone, cybercriminals exploited 9 brands from Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE, the firm’s latest threat intelligence report found. Globally, cybercriminals mostly try to exploit the brands of leading telecoms companies, which make up more than 50 percent of the total number of brands exploited, followed by ecommerce and retail.