x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Hackers could target Gulf cities 'just for sport'

Cyberspace is the wild west and we're the stagecoach, says expert.

DUBAI // Groups of hackers could target Gulf cities just for the sport of it, a terrorism expert has warned.

Wealthy and highly wired, places such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai could be "very attractive" to hackers, said Chris Parry, a security adviser on strategic issues to several governments.

"A lot of people who are good at cyber attacks are demonstrating their skills so they can sell them to criminal groups," said Mr Parry, a former rear admiral in the UK's Royal Navy.

"It's like the wild west in cyberspace - there are a lot of free movers going through it, displaying their wares and just seeing if they can do things.

"If I were a cyber criminal now I'd think that highly wired, rich city states such as Abu Dhabi would be very attractive targets. For one because I could sell my wares to some criminal organisation who could then access banks, or simply because it is a challenge."

A loose affiliation of hackers called Lulz Security, or LulzSec, became infamous for hacking into Sony Pictures and launching denial of service attacks at Britain's Serious and Organised Crime Authority and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The group, linked to another hacker group, Anonymous, has the motto "Laughing at your security since 2011".

Lulz said it was ceasing activity on Sunday, but Mr Parry believes there will be more groups like it.

Mr Parry is in the UAE to promote the Counter Terrorism Expo in Abu Dhabi from October 30 to November 2.

He said the goal of the Expo was to improve preparedness by raising awareness of security threats.

"We're telling people to be vigilant and know what's coming down the track," said Mr Parry, who is also the senior strategic and military adviser for the conference organiser, Clarion Events. "Nobody wants a cyber Pearl Harbour."

mcroucher@thenational.ae