Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

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.”

Latest articles

Gems operates more than 60 schools with over 130,000 students across the Middle East and North Africa

Brookfield to invest in Dubai’s Gems Education

A consortium led by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management is to invest in Gems Education, the UAE’s private school operator. Other members of the group include Gulf Islamic Investments, Marathon Asset Management and the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Financial details were not disclosed but the investment is expected to be almost $2 […]

Two companies are dominant in the lithium industry – Chile’s SQM and US business Albemarle. In 2023, each commanded about 20 percent of global supply

Saudi Arabia targets Chile for lithium investments

Saudi Arabia’s mining minister Bandar Alkhorayef will visit Chile next month to negotiate a deal to secure lithium to support the kingdom’s ambition to expand its electric vehicle (EV) sector, a news report said. Alkhorayef will meet with his counterpart in Santiago, Reuters reported, quoting a Chilean government statement. The report said the two officials will discuss […]

Oman's tourism revenue increase was driven by a 15 percent rise in hotel guest numbers

Luxury hotel revenues in Oman rise to $242m

Oman’s luxury hotels continued to make money in April as the number of guests surged. The revenue of three- to five-star hotels rose 11 percent year on year to OMR93 million ($242 million), the state-run Oman News Agency said, quoting the National Centre for Statistics and Information data. The revenue increase was driven by a […]

The Holy Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Pilgrims flock to the city as part of Hajj

Tourism businesses on the up in Medina

The number of tourism businesses in Medina was 15 percent higher in the first quarter of 2024 than the same time last year, a boon for Saudi Arabia as it aims to increase the industry’s contribution to the national economy. Madinah Chamber did not supply a breakdown of the figures, but the state-owned Saudi Press […]