The UAE's finance sector is under threat from hackers as the number of cyber attacks is set to grow by as much as 20 to 30 per cent next year.
Major General (Ret) Khaled Abdullah Al Bu-Ainnain, the former commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence and current president of the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis, warned against the serious issues facing the UAE at the Gulf International Cyber Security Symposium taking place in Dubai.
"The UAE today has become a global gateway. If you take one small radius of 2,000 kilometres, you're talking about almost 2 billion people," said Mr Al Bu-Ainnain. "The UAE has become a really important gateway either in telecoms, trade or e-commerce.
"The interest of the entire world is here."
With some of the world's biggest banks operating on these shores, the finance sector is especially vulnerable.
Last year, almost 75 per cent of phishing attacks were targeted at the banks, while a third of all cyber attacks targeted ATM and internet banking applications.
Symantec's Norton Cybercrime Report suggests that the average UAE victim suffers a direct financial loss of US$283 (Dh1,040) as a result.
The UAE is subject to a few hundred attacks per day, but it is difficult to gauge the full extent of the losses these attacks incur.
"We do not have figures from a commerce point of view from the financial institutions.
"It is very difficult because we don't have a special organisation to collect such information and judge what exactly is the effect of cyber attacks on the infrastructure of the country," said Mr Al Bu-Ainnain.
According to Mr Al Bu-Ainnain, 3 to 5 per cent of cyber attacks go unreported, especially within the financial sector, despite cyber laws stipulating the requirement to declare a security or data breach.
"Unfortunately banks do not want to declare intrusions to the police or the authorities because they are afraid they will lose customers," he said.