DOHA: Qatar is the third country after Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the Middle East and Africa (Mena) region targeted most in the cyber attacks. Qatar faced close to 2,000 cyber attacks in the first half of 2014, according to FireEye, a major player in the area of cyber security.
“FireEye tracks and protects against advanced cyber attacks and the data we have collected shows Qatar is in the top three countries after Saudi Arabia and Turkey being the most targeted in the region,” Richard Turner, vice president EMEA, FireEye told The Peninsula.
“Between January 1 and June 30 this year, Qatar saw 1,824 advanced cyber attacks that bypassed traditional security layers (IPS, Firewall, Anti-Spam, Web Gateway Security, Application Whitelisting and Sandboxing solutions),” he said.
In the GCC region, Saudi Arabia faced the highest number (8,564) of cyber attacks in the first half of the current year. Turkey and Kuwait were the other countries which were targeted by cyber-attacks.
Broadly the attacks can have either political or financial motives.
“The vast majority of attacks we see in the region are politically motivated and are perpetrated by organisations that are either part of or aligned to particular nations or regions,” said Turner.
“The main driver behind most recent incidents tends to be of a political nature. The Arab Spring has resulted in many political conflicts. A country could be attacked for supporting or opposing a certain regime,” he added.
Attackers with political motives trying to prove a point or communicate a message usually do not try to gain competitive advantage by disrupting national infrastructure.
Cyber-attacks in Africa and the Middle East have increased after Syria’s civil war and political strife in Egypt.
The Syrian Electronic Army, a hacking group loyal to the government of President Bashar Al Assad, had attacked several websites of Qatar in 2013.
Those with financial motives try to make money by stealing confidential information from commercial institutions or stealing intellectual property of any private or government organisations.
Political tension in the Middle East, including the ongoing attack on Syria by the US and its allies, may lead to increase in cyber-attacks on Qatar and other countries.
“It is very tough to predict the future, if previous experience is a reliable indicator, we would probably expect to see more activities (cyber-attacks) through this period of unrest then we may have seen previously,” said Turner.