Saudi Arabia in the crosshairs as cyber-raids target Gulf

More than 90 percent of malware is distributed by email with hackers seeking to trick users with fake invoices and other scams. (Shutterstock)
Updated 15 February 2019
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Saudi Arabia in the crosshairs as cyber-raids target Gulf

  • Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk after an “energy shock” in these three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019
  • Criminal phishing attacks rising sharply, cybersecurity experts warn

RIYADH: Online phishing attacks are on the rise with experts warning of increasing numbers of cyber-raids targeting Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
Phishing is a type of fraud where criminals target online victims, using deception to acquire users’ credentials, ranging from passwords to credit card and bank account details, and other financially sensitive information.
Cybersecurity experts say the numbers of attacks worldwide have risen dramatically, increasing from over 2 million in the first two weeks of February last year to more than 4.3 million in the same period this year.
Mohammed Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University (KSU), told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia, due to its strong position in political, social and economic spheres, has been a key target for cyber-intrusions by state and nonstate actors aiming to compromise its national security.
“Various types of malware and scams, especially phishing, are used to target critical information infrastructure, which serve as the backbone of the economy,” he said.
More than 90 percent of malware is distributed by email with hackers seeking to trick users with fake invoices and other scams, said Khan, who is also the founder and CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, a Washington-based cybersecurity think tank.
“Computer users in Saudi Arabia have been confronted with more than 30 million phishing emails in recent years,” he said.
Khan said that awareness, training and “cyber-hygiene” were important to protect users and organizations from phishing scams.
KSU has developed a pioneering cybersecurity awareness product, “Rawam,” which helps organizations train employees to deal with malicious hacking, malware, ransomware, phishing and cyberattacks.
The bilingual tool has been used to train 100,000 staff in 40 different organizations, he said.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) last month warned of the growing likelihood of cyberattacks in the Gulf, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar particularly vulnerable.
Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk after an “energy shock” in these three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019, released ahead of the annual forum in Davos.
Cybersecurity experts from the Kaspersky Lab, a multinational digital security provider, detected a sharp increase in phishing activities on the eve of the Valentine’s Day.
The overall number of user attempts to visit fraudulent websites detected and blocked by Kaspersky Lab in the first half of February exceeded 4.3 million.
“The spike offers a reminder that we should be cautious when surfing the web, even if we are just buying flowers for our loved one,” said Andrey Kostin, a senior web content analyst.


King Faisal Prize: Rewarding services to all of humanity

Updated 26 March 2019
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King Faisal Prize: Rewarding services to all of humanity

RIYADH: Prince Turki Al-Faisal’s father, the late King Faisal, was a beacon of aspiration and hope. 

During his reign, the first girls’ schools were introduced, and he focused on educating the Saudi population as a whole to promote peace. 

The King Faisal Foundation was founded by King Faisal’s sons and daughters to commemorate his memory and vision. 

The significance of the annual King Faisal Prize (KFP) dates back to when a reporter asked him how he saw Saudi Arabia in 50 years’ time. 

The king responded: “I see Saudi Arabia in 50 years’ time as a wellspring of radiance for humanity.” 

The root of the foundation and the prize stems from his vision for all of humanity: Peace through education.

“The prize was established by the King Faisal Foundation soon after the foundation was formed,” Prince Turki told Arab News.

“It carries the message that the welfare of humanity is the primary importance of service to humanity,” he said. 

“The versatility of Islam is celebrating knowledge for all nationalities. As the first verse in the Holy Qur’an was ‘Read,’” Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Subayyil, secretary-general of KFP, told Arab News. 

“This a universal dialogue between all nationalities and scientific fields, which seeks peace through knowledge.” he said.  

The significance of the Prize shows that: “This is the real Islam and this prize in the country of the Two Holy mosques represents that we are trying to observe the teaching of Islam and its implementation through the prize, which is the encouragement of science and introducing knowledge to people,” Al-Subayyil said.