By Sarah Townsend
The country's cybercrime threat ranking has improved in the past two years, says Symantec report
The UAE’s cybercrime threat ranking has improved in the past two years, but the country remains a key target for hackers, according to a report.
The UAE was ranked 41st globally in Symantec’s annual Internet Security Threat Profile report, and this fell to 51st in 2016, the latest study shows.
However, the UAE ranked 10th in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Algeria ranking first to fourth respectively in terms of the threat levels they face.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the only GCC states to feature in the top 10 MENA list according to Symantec, with the latter coming up fifth. However, the UAE improved its ranking regionally, too, from sixth in 2015.
Email was the weapon of choice for hackers in 2016, the report noted. In the UAE, for example, one in 136 emails is malicious, and the country is increasingly targeted for ‘ransomware’ – a type of cyber attack that uses malware to take over and freeze a computer system, then demands payment from its victims to re-activate it.
The report said 0.5 percent of all global ransomware detections were in the UAE, while 0.7 percent were in Saudi Arabia, and almost a third (30 percent) of ransomware victims in the UAE pay ransom.
Hussam Sidani, regional manager for the Gulf at Symantec, said: “The UAE has taken commendable measures at federal, public and private levels to solidify cybersecurity in the country.
“Furthermore, various entities have made efforts to identify and foster future cybersecurity specialists, and there is also a growing awareness about cyberthreats in the weakest link in the chain – the end user or consumer.”
However, he warned global hackers are becoming both increasingly sophisticated, and increasingly politically motivated.
“New sophistication and innovation are [always] the nature of the threat landscape, but this year Symantec has identified seismic shifts in motivation and focus,” Sidani said.
“The world has seen specific nation states doubling down on political manipulation and straight sabotage.
“In the Middle East, we saw Shamoon putting Saudi Arabia on high alert again after attacks were uncovered late 2016.
“Meanwhile, cyber criminals caused unprecedented levels of disruption by focussing their exploits on relatively simple IT tools, unsecured IoT [Internet of Things] devices and cloud computing services.”
Globally, the US, China and Brazil were the top sources of cybercrime threats in 2016, according to Symantec, with the US accounting for 23.9 percent of identified threats.
India, Germany, Russia, the UK, France, Japan and Vietnam also featured in the top 10 global threat source list, from which MENA countries were absent.
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