UAE cyber chief Dr Mohamed al-Kuwaiti told a security conference in Dubai at the weekend that his country had seen at least a 250% increase in cyber attacks this year this year. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated the problem by driving many more people online.
“There is a cyber pandemic, not only a biological pandemic,” he told delegates at the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC). He said the number of attacks had increased markedly since the UAE normalised relations with Israel in August.
He said the attacks were from all around the region, and especially from our Iran. He said phshing and Ransomware were becoming more sophisticated and more frequent.
In 2019 the UAE released a National Cybersecurity Strategy, a major component of which is the protection of critical assets such as energy, the financial sector, health, and transportation. Under the strategy VoIP application such as WhatsApp and Facetime are prohibited in the UAE. Skype, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams were initially prohibited but are now allowed.
Cyber warfare is now an everyday fact of life in the Middle East, which has long been a hotbed of international tension. Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been the major players, as both the source and target of attacks.
The Trump administration has approved the sale of 50 F-35 fighter jets and 19 MQ-9 Reaper drones to the UAE, a sale that may yet be blocked by Congress is even many Republicans balk at injecting more arms into the volatile region. If the sale goes ahead in the dying days of the Trump administration tensions will mount even further.