A recently published cyber-security report on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states revealed that between the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022, cyber attackers targeted 42 companies in the GCC region, 33 percent of which were in the UAE, 29 percent in Saudi Arabia, 21 percent in Kuwait, 10 percent in Qatar, 5 percent in Oman and 2 percent in Bahrain.

The report, published by Group-IB, a Singapore-headquartered company, specializing in cyber security services, also showed that during the same period organizations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE experienced the highest number of ransomware attacks.

According to the report, ransomware remained the main cyber threat to businesses and organizations around the world, including the Middle East and North Africa region. The report added that Saudi Arabia and the UAE experienced the highest number of ransomware attacks among the GCC countries between mid-2021 and mid-2022.

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the victim’s files, and demands payment of a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. If the ransom is not paid, attackers often threaten to delete the encrypted files or release them publicly.

The report indicated that such attacks could have a significant impact on both individuals and institutions, leading to the loss of important data, as well as financial losses to the involved company from having to pay the ransom, in addition to suffering disruptions to their business operations. Among industries, ransomware attackers were found to frequently target the sectors of energy, communications, information technology, and manufacturing.

The report stated that Iran is considered a major cybersecurity threat to companies in the GCC, especially the region’s telecommunications and energy industries. Late last year, Dubai-based US company CrowdStrike reported that it was tracking 20 groups in Iran that could target the GCC region for potential espionage or cyberattacks. In another report at the end of last year, Group-IB said thousands of computers in the Gulf had been hacked by Russian-speaking fraudsters.

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