UAE’s Cyber Landscape

Why cybersecurity is an urgent necessity rather than a technical luxury?

United Arab Emirates, is considered as one of the advanced countries for doing business within the Middle East and North African region. Dubai is considered as one of the best global business hubs in the world which hosts offices to many International Business corporations. Information Communication technology is one of the leading sectors driving Dubai economy. The government has been encouraging IT sector in the country through various measures. Through its Initiative of Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021, the emirate government is seriously trying to emerge as one of the leading Information Technology based country. UAE has constituted several Free Trade Zones to facilitate Efficient and Advanced Business environments.

What made UAE's FTZ most popular destination for Business?

  • 100% Foreign Ownership of Enterprise
  • 100% import and export tax exemptions
  • 100% Repatriation of capital and ownership 
  • Corporate Tax exemption up to 50 years
  • No income Tax on individuals 
  • 5% Vat on Commercial establishments

These features have made UAE and especially Dubai, leading business destination for business sectors worldwide specifically, IT sector. Dubai has emerged as attractive destination for IT software and service sector. UAE’s heavy investment in healthcare, aviation, real estate, space and Defence sectors, entertainment, transportation, financial and Hospitality services are driving demand for Information and communication technology. Evidently, UAE’s ICT markets have to deal with complex challenges like Internet service, IT workforce and Most Importantly Cyber security. UAE has spent nearly $17 Billion on ICT in 2021 with year-on-year growth of 2.5% in investment. Apart from these, UAE is seriously investing in Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Technology, innovation in Internet of things etc. Also, UAE is the first country in the region to exchange MOUs with technology giants like amazon, google, Microsoft to transform the country into advanced cloud-based data centre hubs in MENA Region.

Some of the significant IT Sub sectors in Dubai:

Cloud- based computing:
UAE is one of the largest Data centre hubs in Middle east. By 2021 UAE is developing three cloud zones with partnership with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services. Apart from the heavy Investment in Information Technology and Cloud Based computing infrastructure by UAE government, the government is also exploring the Innovative and Competitive Business regulation laws to expand the efficient business prospects further.
 
Internet of Things:
According to an Estimate, UAE government has Invested $37 Billion in Internet of things Infrastructure. There was rising demand for Smart technological Innovations like smart services, internet communications, Machine to machine communication, smart Industrial technologies etc. UAE Hosts the world’s advanced Smart city like Dubai apart from other cities and also planning to lead the global smart city development mechanisms. Hence apparently IoT has lot of potential which aligns with the UAE quest for Smart Innovations. 
 
Artificial Intelligence:
Another significant priority of UAE’s ICT policy is Artificial Intelligence. It is forecasted that AI shall contribute 14% of GDP to UAE’s economy by 2030 with a growth rate of 33% per year from 2018.
The UAE has already begun integrating AI with industries such as education, healthcare, space, transportation, and aviation. AI is a key part of the ambitious plans of the UAE government to diversify their economy and become a knowledge economy.
 
Cyber security:
UAE being the leading world class economy and a global corporate attraction, was also a significant target for cyberattacks. UAE faces the most cyberattacks and ransomware attacks in MENA Region. To captivate this rising demand for Cybersecurity, several firms are developing their capabilities in Cyber security. At present Cybersecurity is the highest priority for the UAE government to attract Investments and Business establishments. Also, government has grandly spent on cybersecurity frameworks and regulation to increase the credibility among the Business platforms to invest in UAE.  Cyber threats and risks lead to major threats like Fraud, Terrorism, espionages, Violation of privacy and Defamation.
On an average, a person in UAE spends 7 hours and 24 Minutes online per day. According to a study conducted by IBM, the financial impact of data breach in both the biggest economies in middle east, Saudi Arabia and Dubai has increased to 6.4 million Dirhams per breach which is double the global average of 3.86 million. Approximately 25000 E-crimes were registered in UAE alone in 2021. With the Cities like Dubai rapidly expanding their technological footprints, cyber security is one of the major concerns in UAE. Ransomware and phishing are the most common type of cyberattacks in Dubai. Coming to data Breaches in UAE, Health sector is the most effected industries with cyberattack and data leaks which incurred the highest average data breach cost of 7.1 million.
 

During the pandemic, with the great increase in use of technology to facilitate work from home revolution, made cybersecurity vulnerable. In 2021 there was 300 percent increase in cyberattacks in UAE alone. Social engineering, phishing, Spear Phishing are the most prevalent cyber security threats in UAE. UAE is the second most targeted country in Middle East for ransomware attacks and ranked 26th worldwide. According to Symantec internet security report “Cyber criminals are making and demanding more money than ever before. The average ransomware payments spiked 171% in 2020, surging to $312,000. The highest ransom paid out by organisations doubled from 2019 to 2020, jumping from $5 million to $ 10 million”. With increasing complex threat landscape and the cyber security vulnerabilities, companies should focus on some key factors to secure their organisations.

  1. improving visibility into all endpoints and workloads
  2. responding to the resurgence of ransomware
  3. delivering security as a distributed service
  4. adopting an intrinsic approach to cloud-first security

In 2016 alone, UAE lost 5.20 billion Dirhams in cyberattacks. In this regards the government of UAE and Dubai electronic security centre has published a Cyber security strategy to make proactive risk assessment and guidelines to avert cybersecurity threat. The cyber security strategy emphasises on Five main domains to tackle cyber security and guide the organisations within UAE to more resilient cyber security architecture.

 
  1. CYBER SMART SOCIETY: Achieving awareness, skills and capabilities to manage cyber security risks for Dubai’s public and private sectors as well as individuals.
 
  1. INNOVATION: Promoting research and development for cyber security, and establishing a free, fair and secure cyber space in Dubai.
 
  1. CYBER SECURITY: Putting controls in place to protect confidentiality, integrity and availability, as well as data privacy for Dubai’s public and private sectors, and individuals.
 
  1. CYBER RESILIENCE: Ensuring the continuity of IT systems and their availability in the cyber space.
 
  1. NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION: Establishing national and international collaboration to manage cyber risks. 
The Cyber Security Strategy together with the guiding principles will be established and implemented to achieve strong cyber protection. The cyber security strategy is implemented by different stakeholders, who need to achieve their objectives and work together to create a cyber-secure Dubai.
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