Gitex: UAE cybercrime chief warns of surge in credit card and password theft

Mohamed Al Kuwaiti said artificial intelligence can help to tackle major attacks – but people have a crucial role to play

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, December 7 –  Dr. Mohamed Hamad Al-Kuwaiti, Head of Cyber Security - United Arab Emirates Government speaking during the panel discussion on  ‘Cybersecurity in the Deep Learning Age’ at the UAE-ISRAEL FUTURE DIGITAL ECONOMY SUMMIT on the second day of GITEX Technology Week held at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online. Story by Kelly
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Phishing campaigns, use of ransomware and vulnerabilities in servers are among the top cybersecurity threats in the UAE, experts said.

Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, head of cybersecurity for the UAE government, said attacks have increased dramatically since the onset of the Covid-19 as more people switched online for work, socialising and shopping.

At the UAE-Israel Future Digital Summit on the sidelines of Gitex in Dubai, he said the adoption of predictive technologies is the best form of protection against attacks.

Phishing attacks increased this year with the dawn of remote working

“With the digital transformation happening across all sectors in the UAE, attacks will increase, but so too will the adoption of protective measures,” he said.

“Phishing campaigns are one of the major threats we see here in the UAE, alongside the use of ransomware.

“These attacks increased this year with the dawn of the remote-working situation.”

A phishing campaign is an email scam designed to steal personal information from victims.

Cybercriminals use phishing to obtain sensitive information, such as credit card details and login credentials.

Mr Al Kuwaiti said the use of predictive analysis technologies, such as AI, is an important tool in combating online criminals.

Public awareness should also be improved so individuals are better equipped to protect themselves from attacks.

“Given the AI tech we have today, it can give us foresight if an attack will happen," he said.

"That in turn can be used as a deterrent measure to avoid such threats.

“People, technology and policies all play a role in reducing the threat of cyber attacks, but collaboration and knowledge sharing on a global scale is also necessary.”

At the same panel discussion, Yigal Unna, director general of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, said financial gain is no longer the main driver triggering cybersecurity crime.

“In the Middle East, many attacks come from outside the region,” he said.

“The challenge we now see is the new form of attack; it is not just financial but psychological.

“These kind of attacks can spread chaos and everyone is under threat, no one is immune.

"But if we work together, share knowledge and best practice, we can reduce the risks and beat the bad guys."

In May, a survey by cybersecurity company Proofpoint found 80 per cent of companies and organisations in the UAE said they had been subject to at least one cyber attack in 2019.

The survey of senior IT managers said credential theft and phishing, tactics used to gain access to financial accounts and other sensitive information, were the most common types of attack.

Gitex 2020 in pictures