Abu Dhabi Police have issued a warning to companies in the UAE after a spate of cyber attacks by international hackers came to light.
Hackers have intercepted communications that outline the terms of a deal and the time of payment between local buyers and overseas suppliers, Wam news agency reported yesterday.
With this information they are able to target specific funds transfers and have the money wired into an account of their choosing.
Hackers sometimes pose as suppliers that have already established a relationship with local businesses and simply ask their accountants via email to make future payments to new bank accounts, said Col Rashid Bourshid, the head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Abu Dhabi Police. These funds are then collected by hackers in Europe or Asia.
This sort of socially engineered cyber attack has been on the rise in the GCC recently.
One such case discovered by the CID involved a restaurant owner in the UAE whose US$150,000 payment to buy a new eatery in Europe was diverted to a gang of hackers in East Europe. Another case involved $100,000 worth of due payments that ended up in East Asia and into the wrong hands.
Col Bourshid has urged local companies to move away from relying on email correspondence alone and to finalise payments by following up phone calls with suppliers, especially when sensitive information is exchanged.
The Middle East is one of the most targeted regions in the world for cyber attacks, with financial centres such as Dubai being a particular target. The US-based security firm McAfee recently opened a cyber defence centre in Dubai to help clients to respond to threats and attacks.