‘Gulf nations must unite to tackle cyberattacks’

Riyadh - 

Gulf countries must tighten coordination to fight an increasing number of cyberattacks, experts said on Monday, as one official blamed hackers in Iran. 

The comments came at an international conference in the Saudi Arabian capital after the Shamoon 2 virus in January reportedly disrupted labour ministry computers. All Gulf Cooperation Council countries are at risk, Saleh Almotairi, director general of the Saudi National Cyber Security Centre, told the conference.

“There is an increase in targeting GCC countries,” he said, noting that both financial and government bodies have been targeted.

“If we cooperate we will be able to protect all sectors,” he added, reporting that his centre responded to 124 “breaches” last year.

GCC members Bahrain and Kuwait were also the targets of increasing attacks over the past year, according to cybersecurity experts. Hackers tried to penetrate the computer systems at Bahrain’s interior ministry, said Lt Col Bassam al Maraj, a ministry director.

Maraj said the attempted breach originated in Iran, and singled out “Bahraini people living in Iran.”

Quasai Alshatti, director general of Kuwait’s Central Agency for Information Technology, said financial institutions in his country have also been targeted.

The Shamoon virus was first deployed against the Saudi energy sector in 2012. After the 2012 Shamoon hacking, US intelligence officials said they suspected a link to Iran.

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