By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky said that there are possibly 'hundreds of thousands' of cyber criminals around the world
Cyberattacks on infrastructure such as those seen in the Middle East in the past are an emerging and worrying trend that countries and businesses will be increasingly forced to contend with, according to Eugene Kaspersky, the founder and CEO of IT security firm Kaspersky Lab.
In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, Kaspersky said that the potential impact of cyberattacks on infrastructure is potentially much more significant than the sorts of cybercrimes faced by corporations on a daily basis.
“[Cyberattacks on companies] are bad. It’s really not good at all, but it’s possible to handle that. You can estimate your risk and you can estimate your damage,” he said.
“But if they hack industrial systems or infrastructure, including critical infrastructure, that’s a real problem,” Kaspersky added. “The damage is unpredictable. That’s the trend and the thing that keeps me up at night.”
Although relatively uncommon, cyberattacks on critical infrastructure have already taken place in the Arabian Gulf region.
In 2012, for example, oil giant Saudi Aramco suffered an attack on 30,000 computers, which the attack said was aimed at stopping the oil and gas output of the world’s biggest crude exporter. The incident is considered one of the most significant cyberattacks in history.
Since then, Aramco has come under repeated attacks. In February, the company’s chief information security officer said that there is “definitely” an increase in the number of attacks over 2019 and early 2020.
Kaspersky declined to say whether he believes other major incidents are likely in the near future.
“I can’t get into the details,” he said. “But yes, it’s possible.”
According to Kaspersky, the company detects 300,000 new unique malicious files unknown to researchers on a daily basis.
“That means there are thousands of people, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people involved in cybercrime,” he added.
Although he did not reveal how much of the cybercrime that his company detects is targeting the Middle East, he said that he considered it to be a “very unique, specific region when it comes to hacker activity”.
“It’s interesting and challenging,” he said. “This is one of our priorities.”