Cyber attacks on Gulf infrastructure seen rising

Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:21pm EST
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By Mahmoud Habboush

DUBAI (Reuters) - The former chief of the United Arab Emirates' air force said his country's advanced cyber infrastructure made it a favorite target for hackers, especially when tension heightened in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The last war in Gaza led to a barrage of cyber attacks because UAE has advanced telecommunications infrastructure," retired Major General Khaled al-Buainnain said.

"The biggest attack was during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war which was carried out by pro-Israeli hackers who did not understand the nature of the conflict and its parties."

His comments came a few months after a virus infected 30,000 computers at Saudi Arabia's national oil company, Saudi Aramco, which said on Sunday the attack was aimed at stopping oil and gas production at the world's biggest oil exporter.

The attack failed to disrupt production, but was one of the most destructive cyber strikes against a single business.

Cyber attacks on infrastructure by hostile governments, militant groups or private "hacktivists" have the potential to disrupt oil and gas supplies to power plants and desalination plants, on which the Gulf states are heavily reliant.

"There is an interest at the political level in cyber security which has prompted investments in protection systems to protect the interest of the people, the government and national security," Buainnain said, speaking on the sidelines of a cyber security conference in Dubai.

"All the evidence that we have confirms that the attacks will increase," said Robert Eastman, vice president for global solutions at Lockheed Martin.   Continued...