This post comes from Joe Shenouda, CYBERPOL / ECIPS Liaison Officer. He reflects on the cybersecurity space in the Middle East.
The Middle East critical infrastructure market is huge and at risk. It will hit 12 billion Euro in revenue by 2018, and it is the victim of a rising and ongoing aggressive cyberwar that barely makes the news. The Middle East's oil industry is huge and has 80 percent of the world's oil fields. Any disruption of that industry can and will be felt by the whole world.
Cyber criminals in the Middle East used to be lone wolves but now they have evolved into 'professional' gangs—and even military groups. There is a corporate and political war game going on, and these groups are targeting most critical infrastructure companies. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are getting hit pretty hard and receive the most unknown zero-day malware species in the world.
The results of a cyber hack on critical infrastructure companies can be divided into social and economic damage. Since CI companies form the backbone of most countries, when hacked the social consequences are usually harsh for the population and may include, for example, three days of no drinking water or fuel, or even the inability to buy basic human needs from shops. Economic damage can come from not-working ATM machines and businesses that cannot operate without electricity or Internet access. It is mind-blowing that today some bits and bytes going back and forth through the Internet can cause such large damage.
It is key for Middle East organizations and governments to take cybersecurity and technology infrastructure challenges seriously and start creating a secure digital environment. While most of the time they are able to stop the attacks, the problem comes when they cannot.
The consequences are huge in an instant, especially with the Internet of Things revolution that will occur in the next five years, where we go from 4 billion connected devices to 25 billion devices. That's a six-times greater attack surface than the surface we're trying to protect now. Let's hope the Middle East keeps evolving and protects itself better looking toward the future to remain a secure environment for both industry and the people.