Abu Dhabi stock exchange denies attacks by hackers

Officials deny the UAE and Saudi Arabian stock exchanges were the latest victims of an escalating cyberwar with Israel.

ABU DHABI // Stock exchange officials denied yesterday that website problems on Tuesday were caused by Israeli computer hackers. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) website was operating slowly and the site for Saudi Arabia's stock exchange, Tadawul, was not loading at all on Tuesday evening.

A group of hackers called IDF-Team claimed it had targeted the sites, and those of banks, airlines and government organisations

ADX said yesterday "technical difficulties" had since been resolved. "We were doing maintenance on our website," said Abdullah Salem Al Naimi, the head of market surveillance at ADX. "Everything is OK and under control. We are continuously monitoring the website and following up with Etisalat."

Tadawul said all its systems were working normally. "Reports about hacking of Tadawul website and/or degradation of website performance are incorrect," it said. "The exchange website remains accessible and fully operational. Tadawul deploys advanced systems and processes to protect the integrity and continuity of its infrastructure."

The claimed attacks were the latest in a series of cyber battles between Israeli and Arab hackers. Website access to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, El Al Airlines and several Israeli banks was disrupted on Monday.

This month a hacker in Saudi Arabia, named OxOmar, posted online thousands of active credit-card numbers belonging to Israelis. In response, Israeli hackers posted the personal information, including email and Facebook passwords, of thousands of Saudi residents.
"If the lame attacks from Saudi Arabia continue, we will move to the next level, which will disable these sites longer term," the group said.
Dr Ibrahim Baggili, director of the cyber forensics laboratory at Zayed University, said it was difficult to know whether the hackers' attack had been successful.
"What bank would like their customers to know they were hacked?" he said. "Banks and stock exchanges are the kinds of organisations that will not be happy to disclose these things."
Other targets of the hackers, which included Arab Bank and SABB, the Emirates Identity Authority (Eida), the Dubai Government site, Saudi Arabian Airlines and a UAE airport information directory, also denied being affected.
"We hear from here, there and everywhere that this happened, but no one can tell us what is going on," said a representative for Saudi Arabian Airlines.
An Eida official said the authority would not comment because "we can't issue a statement about nothing … there's nothing to deny in the first place".
An analyst at a bank in Jeddah said the Tadawul website was not working yesterday morning unless the browser had been left open from the day before.
"If the Capital Market Authority admitted the stock exchange website was hacked, the repercussions would have been strong," the analyst said.
"From a political standpoint, you could see they would want to calm things down. Also, it is earnings season, and the financial results of close to 100 companies had to be uploaded, which could also have been been a reason why the website was down."
Dr Baggili said the UAE was better prepared for cybercrime than other countries in the region, but security required vigilance.
"Hacking is no longer just for the tech-savvy or the computer geek," he said. "It is now more accessible, and whether the steps the UAE has taken are enough, we will find out in the future."