The biggest data breaches and cyberattacks in the Middle East

The Middle East, which has been embroiled in geopolitical conflicts for decades, is witnessing a rising number of cyberattacks as age-old geopolitical rivalries move into the digital realm and remote work opens up new targets for attackers.

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The increasing pace of technology adoption In the Middle East, including deployment of remote-work tools and migration to the cloud, has made many enterprises operate more efficiently and opened up new markets. The downside: It has also made enterprises more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Gulf countries in particular, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are increasingly becoming the targets of sophisticated attacks that are aimed at stealing personal data and, in some cases, exposing state secrets as age-old geopolitical rivalries play out online.

Data breaches in the MENA region are known to be particularly costly affairs, with the average damage reaching $6.53 million, well above the global average incident cost of $3.86 million, according to a 2020 study by the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security.

Attacks against individuals also gained momentum, with the region experiencing 2.57 million phishing attacks between April and June of 2020 alone. This increase in phishing attacks is particularly concerning, as phishing emails are often a precursor to more damaging incidents such as ransomware attacks. 

"We did see a drop in the amount of successful ransomware attacks, where criminals failed to encrypt data. This is good news in the sense that more attacks are being detected and blocked before the final payload is deployed," explains John Shier, senior research scientist at Sophos.  "However, we have also seen the rate of extortion increase in 2020, which means many criminals are still able to monetize their efforts by stealing data."

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