x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Hackers be warned: UAE takes guard against cyber attacks

National Cyber Security Authority set up to combat threats and streamline defences against attacks on critical and military sites.

ABU DHABI // The UAE is the world's fifth most targeted country by cyber hackers and phishers, and up to 30 per cent more attacks are expected this year.

Cyber attacks cost businesses in the region Dh1.5 billion, with most of the attacks coming from China and Eastern Europe, senior national security official Saif Al Dhaheri told a conference in the capital.

The Computer Emergency Response Team reported 9,132 hacking attacks in 2011 and 13,113 incidents last year, mostly phishing, said Mr Al Dhaheri, head of telecoms and networks at the Supreme Council for National Security's National Crisis Emergency Management Authority.

"There are hackers in China who are specifically targeting the UAE," Mr Al Dhaheri told the Homeland Security Summit.

"Three years ago the Ministry of Education's website was targeted by hackers and was defaced. When you logged on to the home page images that I cannot describe here to the public appeared and investigations revealed that they originated from Eastern Europe."

Mr Al Dhaheri said the UAE was a critical energy source and an influential country in the region, but direct reasons for the attacks had not been established.

"I am researching to spot the early warning signs," he said. The research will be completed next year.

The new National Cyber Security Authority, the first in the region to combat cyber threats and streamline defences against attacks on military and critical installations, will also have a mandate to oversee cyber and information security across all government services.

"When private companies want work with the UAE Government they have to follow the mandate issued by the authority and adhere to it," Mr Al Dhaheri said.

Maj Gen Mohammed Al Essa, from the Ministry of Defence, said last year that the three services of the armed forces, Army, Navy and Air, had been working closely on enhancing the security of advanced digital communications systems to effectively face any threat to national or regional stability.

"To consolidate, deepen and protect those successes, the UAE introduced the necessary legislation and regulations which were culminated in a special federal decree issued by the President to establish a national authority for cyber security," Maj Gen Al Essa said.

The authority will not only monitor the UAE's cyber defences but will also regulate the protection of the communications network. In addition, it will develop and modify the network.

It also aims to enhance the efficiency of the methods of preserving and exchanging information among all entities in the UAE, whether through the information systems or any other electronic means.

The authority's powers include proposing national policy on electronic security and implementing it. The authority will also institute a national plan to confront any risks, threats or attacks against electronic security in the nation and will coordinate with the concerned authorities to combat cyber crimes.