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Half of UAE businesses feel at risk from data attacks

In the past two years, 73 percent of UAE organisations surveyed about data security fell victim to successful ransomware attacks Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko
In the past two years, 73 percent of UAE organisations surveyed about data security fell victim to ransomware attacks
  • 73% are ransomware victims
  • UAE most targeted Gulf country
  • Data protection budgets rise

More than half of UAE businesses still perceive themselves at risk from data security threats, a new report has found.

The Data Risk Management 2023 UAE report by Veritas Technologies showed that in the past two years 73 percent of organisations surveyed fell victim to ransomware attacks. That is substantially higher than the global figure of 65 percent.

Ransomware groups are one of the major threats worldwide, including in the Middle East. They increased by 77 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. 

The Singapore-based Group-IB’s report Hi-Tech Crime Trends 2022-2023 found that the most targeted countries in the Gulf were the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“Ransomware continues to be the major threat to large and medium-sized businesses, including government, healthcare and other critical organisations,” Stanislav Protassov, president and co-founder at the Swiss data protection and cybersecurity company Acronis, told AGBI.

Despite these challenges, Johnny Karam, managing director and vice-president for international emerging regions at Veritas Technologies said there was a positive trend in the UAE over data security, with “data protection budgets rising by a third over the past 12 months”, accompanied by an increase in staffing for security teams.

While organisations are bolstering external security controls, attackers are trying to recruit from within for initial access. 

Derek Manky, chief security strategist and vice-president of global threat intelligence at FortiGuard Labs, part of the California-based cybersecurity company Fortinet, said: “While adversaries have always targeted major events, cybercriminals now have new tools at their disposal, generative AI in particular, to support their activities.”

The evolution of generative AI adds complexity to the cybersecurity landscape. While organisations leverage AI for defence, cybercriminals exploit it to enhance various stages of their attacks. 

Protassov said: “Data from the company’s website or social media accounts can be used to make phishing emails.

“In classic business email compromise scams, the AI can even respond to potential questions, greatly reducing the attacker’s effort.”

“Through reinforced learning, the AI can also recognise which topics work well and which it should avoid. It can also generate the script for sending emails.”

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