Malware, phishing and spam: Protecting data in Saudi Arabia

Steve Evans

Thursday 21 April 2016

Saudi Arabia is fast becoming one of the world’s top targets for cyberattacks. What are the reasons? And what are organisations doing to improve security?

A recent gathering of cybersecurity experts, government officials and concerned businesses in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has helped propel cybersecurity to the top of the agenda across the Middle East.

And with good reason. The region as a whole, and Saudi Arabia in particular, is fast becoming a hotbed of cybercrime. Currently, the country is leading in terms of cyberattacks in the Gulf region, while globally, the Kingdom ranks second in spam attacks.

Scams and ransomware top the list

These attacks range from malware to phishing to spam to DDoS to network attacks, and organisations of all sizes have been targeted. Social media scams and ransomware were particularly directed at Saudi companies.

At the second annual Middle East Cyber Security Summit, held in Riyadh in early April, the theme was ‘Detect. Protect. Respond’. The event featured presentations and interactive panel sessions while executives from Microsoft, Intel and various government representatives were in attendance.

There was a heavy focus on finding a local solution to an international problem. As cyberattacks increase in complexity and frequency, traditional defences can struggle to keep companies safe. The event provided an opportunity for Saudi businesses to hear about the latest defence techniques and network with other companies facing similar issues.

An attractive target

There’s a reason why the region, and Saudi Arabia in particular, faces a growing threat from cyberattacks. According to a report from analyst group Research and Markets: “The region’s growing economy, high internet and mobile penetration, and sophisticated infrastructure make it an attractive destination for hackers to make easy money.”

The report goes on to state that this explosion in threats, coupled with a lack of cybersecurity professionals in Saudi Arabia, means many businesses are turning to managed security services (MSS) to shore up their cyber-defences. MSS is when the management of security services and systems is outsourced to a third party.

Taking action

The conference in Riyadh was a necessary event for many businesses in the region. With cybercrime a growing issue that will likely worsen over the next few years, it presented a great opportunity for organisations to network with peers and hear from vendors about how to protect their businesses.