Syria’s civil war and political strife in Egypt have made their way to the Internet and has so far driven a surge in cyber attacks in the Middle East.
Executives from Intel Corporation software security division McAfee said that the better half of the incidents in the Gulf this year named “hacktivist” attacks are said to be politically motivated programmers destructed opposing groups or institutions.
“It’s mostly bringing down websites and defacing them with political messages – there has been a huge increase in cyber attacks in the Middle East,” Christiaan Beek, McAfee director for incident response forensics in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).”It’s difficult for people to protest in the street in the Middle East and so defacing websites and denial of service (DOS) attacks are a way to protest instead.”
The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a hacking group loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, defaced an internet recruiting site for the US Marine Corps on Monday and recently targeted the New York Times website and Twitter, as well other websites within the Middle East.
“There’s a group leading operations, with a support group of other people that can help,” said Beek.
McAfee opened a centre in Dubai on Monday to deal with the rising threat of internet sabotage in the region, the most serious of which are attacks to extract proprietary information from companies or governments or those that cause lasting damage to critical infrastructure.
Cyber attacks are mostly focused on Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, Qatar, the top liquefied natural gas supplier, and Dubai, which is the region’s financial, commercial and aviation hub, said Gert-Jan Schenk, McAfee president for EMEA.
The “Shamoon” virus last year targeted Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, damaging about 30,000 computers in what may have been the most destructive attack against the private sector.