Cyber threat estimates for 2021 in the region

Kaspersky Security Bulletin highlights all the key cyber threats that will be influenced by the local developments in the META region and the experts from Kaspersky predicts:

#1 Increase in advanced persistent threat intrusions in the Middle East and Turkey
Main driver: increasing geopolitical tension across the board influencing an increase in espionage-based cyber offensive. Geopolitics has been historically the primary contributing factor – among other factors such as economic, tech and foreign affairs – to influence cyber intrusions with an objective to steal sensitive data for national security purposes. Despite the current pandemic situation affecting the globe, geopolitical tension has significantly increased in the Middle East and Turkey at least since January 2020 and likely continued till the end of 2020.

#2 Growth of cybercrime attacks in META at-large, especially in Africa
Main driver: economic turbulence and impact of COVID-19. Every country globally has had its own issues with varying impact since the pandemic started. Economic turbulence stormed many countries and had the most affection on countries who had weak economy prior to the pandemic. Traditionally, weak economies lead to unemployment, social inequality, corruption and more, and this leads to an increase in traditional crime. The cyber domain has somewhat similar effects, and cybercrime will likely increase as an effect of weak economies. With that said, the increase will vary between a country and another depending on the average wealth, age, country-wide digitization and so on.

#3 Increase in data breaches in META at-large
Main driver: To cope with social distancing and fighting the pandemic, more companies are exposing their systems online with availability in mind to maintain their “business as usual” status, but without adequate security controls, leaving some type of databases and systems open to intruders. Data breaches occur when computer systems are left unpatched or improperly configured, at a corporate environment or at a cloud hosting provider.

#4 More hackers-for-hire/cyber mercenaries groups’ activities targeting SMBs and financial institutions
Main driver: increasing economic uncertainties globally and in the META region mandates that businesses understand their competitive marketplace to navigate the current and upcoming foggy situation. This estimate is especially true for the Middle East region. In addition, this situation could lead to bankruptcy and increase in legal disputes in courts. These factors are just what cyber-mercenaries are hired for; digging sensitive private information for legal disputes to win court ruling or steal business trade secrets and provide business or competitive intelligence to the highest bidder.

#5 At least one disruptive cyberattack in the Middle East to come
Main driver: asymmetric warfare is more likely to happen due to the global pandemic, to respond to geopolitical, economic, and security threats without causing major direct conflicts and at significantly lower cost compared to traditional warfare. Cyber warfare is known for its low cost, high impact, and hard attribution. These factors make this type of modern warfare the preferred go-to method to sabotage and disrupt countries’ critical infrastructure and corporates’ infrastructure at minimum cost, in these tense times of geopolitics in the Middle East.