Cyber War Waged on Saudi Arabia
A cyber-attack last month, disabled thousands computers across several government ministries in Saudi Arabia. A rare cyber weapon was used to destroy and erase data. Malware used to violate the data of Saudi Arabian Oil Co in 2012 was employed again, this time rendering more than 35,000 computers worthless in a matter of minutes.
As the abode of almost half the global oil reserves and much of Middle East’s natural gas, Saudi Arabia is the potential target for some of the world’s most expensive cyber attacks and data breach activities. This is a proliferating threat as online activities are booming in the region. Coupled with geo-political and economic parameters, the security risks are mounting every day. The extent of the damage is yet to be disclosed. Sources confirm that the attack targeted the Saudi Central Bank, the transportation ministry and the Airport agency of the country. Thankfully some lost data has been restored via back-ups.
While,the central bank, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, denied that its systems were breached, the country’s General Authority of Civil Aviation agreed that its networks were attacked and exposed, but assured that the extent was limited to a few office systems and employee e-mails.
Though the attack was similar to the one that hit Saudi Arabia four years ago, the impact was less grave and didn’t cause large scale disruption to transportation or aviation services confirmed the executive director for Strategic Development and Communication at the Riyadh-based National Cyber Security Center.
Such incidents are more than an inconvenience to public facilities and transportation; they put the economic development of the region at a risk. It is predicted that the unified regional online market in Saudi Arabia could expand up to 160 million users by 2025 and add about $95 billion to gross domestic product.The United Arab Emirates and other Arab states in the Gulf are leading this growth. Data vulnerability to cyber-attack is a parameter which could upset the entire cart of development in the gulf region.
The attack last month confirmed that investment alone doesn’t ensure protection. Middle Eastern companies are among the world’s top 10 in buying cyber security technology but in the bottom 50 for education and training the concerned users.The problem cannot be solved by technology alone, but by employing human capital effectively.
All hope is not lost as, Jens Monrad, a senior intelligence analyst at FireEye, signaled towards the growing awareness of the issue and a stronger government support to prevent digital and cyber-crimes.