UAE: Education, aviation, healthcare most vulnerable to cyberattacks, say experts

36 percent targeted the education sector, 29 percent affected aviation and 15 percent targeted healthcare


Nandini Sircar

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Amer Sharaf. KT Photo: Nandini Sircar
Amer Sharaf. KT Photo: Nandini Sircar

Published: Tue 23 Apr 2024, 6:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Apr 2024, 4:43 PM

The education, aviation, and healthcare sectors within the GCC including the UAE have been the prime targets for cyber threat actors.

These findings were revealed at the Help AG’s participation during the ongoing 2024 Gulf Information Security Expo & Conference (GISEC).

As per their data, 36 percent of cyberattacks targeted the education sector, 29 percent affected aviation and 15 percent targeted healthcare.

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Help AG, CEO, Stephan Berner said: “These sectors combined represented 80 percent of targeted organisations in the GCC. Of nearly 30,000 critical risk alerts identified by us, the dominant threat categories were found to be Credential Theft which stands at 49 per cent and 39 per cent of Brand Abuse, while Data Leakage and Phishing represented 10 per cent and 1.5 per cent of use cases respectively.”

He added: “Government entities encountered eight percent of the attacks, Investment sectors faced seven percent, and Banking and Finance sectors experienced four percent, as digital transactions in these sectors continued to rise.”

Therefore, experts emphasised the critical need for advanced cybersecurity measures in response to the increasing complexity and sophistication of cyber threats.

The escalation of this trend is compounded by the financial consequences of data breaches. In the Middle East, including the UAE, data breach costs rank second globally, highlighting the economic objectives of cyber threat actors amid the region’s prosperity.

Pandemic triggered an increase in cybercrime

Moreover, the increasing occurrence of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks underscores the geopolitical complexities of cyber threats, underscoring the need for a comprehensive and strategic defense strategy to safeguard the nation.

Amer Sharaf, CEO of Cyber Security Systems and Services Sector, Dubai Electronic Security Center (DESC) UAE, said: “We have seen an increase in cybercrime specifically around the pandemic time. Due to the digital transformation happening globally, these numbers have continuously increased. The global cybersecurity market size was valued at approximately $183 billion in 2024 and is projected to reach $273.6 billion by 2028 an annual growth rate of 10.56 per cent.”

He added “It’s an important area where we have to jointly put our efforts to withstand and put the right policies in place to protect our nation. Phishing emails also pose a massive challenge but the private and the public sector both created a lot of awareness around it and the types of email that can help one differentiate.”

However, it’s worth noting that investments in the UAE including the private players have also spanned preventative, detective, responsive, and predictive controls.

For example, at the conference Huawei Cloud is showcasing its industry-leading intelligent and simplified cloud native security solutions to protect entities across the Middle East and Central Asia against sophisticated cyberattacks.

Huawei Cloud can apparently defend against massive attacks with ease, with over 70 per cent of security incidents cleared in one minute and over 99 per cent of incidents cleared in five minutes.

Huawei Cloud’s Chief Security Expert of Enterprise Digitalization and Cloud Transformation, Eagle said: “The company’s cloud-native security system is rooted in a cloud platform that integrates assets, security, and security operations together, making it the optimal solution for the digital intelligent world.”


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