Qatar, which is set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, is liable to face an increased number of cyber attacks during the football tournament, an expert has said.
“Large scale events have huge implications on how you protect that environment,” said Rashmi Knowles, chief EMEA security architect at RSA.
Speaking on the sidelines of the RSA security conference in San Francisco, she also said that the region is witnessing a growing number of attacks, particularly in certain sectors.
In the Middle East, the financial services sector and the oil and gas industry are more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
“Overall, threats are going up. Also, the type of attacks have changed. So earlier the focus was on custodial data such as stealing credit card information. We will still see those attacks, but the bigger threat in the Middle East is cyber espionage, which is stealing intellectual property.
“That’s almost a hidden crime – if you lose personal information, you report it. But if you are an oil company and you lost intellectual property about a new drilling platform, you don’t need to report it, yet it has a huge impact on your operations and that hidden crime is what we don’t see reported in the media.
“That’s because there’s a stigma associated with the crime – most organisations are embarrassed that they were unable to prevent the attack,” Knowles explained.
However, following the high-profile cyber attacks on Saudi Aramco – in which up to 30,000 workstations were affected – and on Qatar’s RasGas, by the so-called Shamoon virus in 2012, a lot more companies have been more forthcoming with information, and are sharing details of threats and attacks.
Awareness about the issue has increased substantially in the region, but Knowles also stressed that companies should invest heavily in protecting data that is most valuable to them.
Security is still one of the biggest IT issues in the Middle East, with more than two-thirds or 68 per cent of organisations lacking the internal capabilities to protect against sophisticated cyber-attacks, according to recent research from Symantec and Deloitte.