According to the Middle Eastern Global Economic Crime Survey Report (2016), cybercrime is one of the highest economic crimes reported in the Middle East, affecting 30% of organisations in 2016. This surge in cybercrime is ultimately the result of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) pursuing unique structural reform initiatives, aimed at reducing reliance on the depleting oil and gas industry through the establishment of a strategic development framework, aimed at diversifying its members’ future economies. However, it has become apparent that the strategic framework is becoming increasingly at risk due to insufficient developments in cybersecurity strategies that are not reflective of the technological growth of developmental technologies.
The GCC’s development framework largely involves developing digital technology, utilising IoT smart infrastructure and technology, to grow the digital economy. ‘Smart cities’ are able to significantly reshape economic and social structures, and are widely considered economically beneficial, providing more accurate data and increased efficiency through infrastructure management and energy monitoring. Cybercrime poses a multifaceted threat to security in the Middle East. This is because many of the components that form this infrastructure are highly accessible and come with increasingly complex threats to security (El-Guindy 2008). This is further compounded by a lack of regulations and poor security awareness, with 65% of employees not understanding the security risks, prompted by employees unassumingly using personal devices at work (Security Middle East 2015). The outcome is businesses increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals throughout the region.
According to a recent PwC Middle East Report (2016), there is increasing recognition among regional organisations of the importance of investing in cybersecurity strategies. As such, many organisations are incorporating strategic initiatives, which transcend the notion of IT being the only sector at risk of digital attacks, to improve security and reduce vulnerability. Cybercrime can significantly threaten organisations economic commercial sectors and significantly damages reputations. Despite the increasing risk to security, less than 20% of organisations in the region, have a sufficient awareness program (PwC Middle East Report 2016). Combating cybercrime requires a detailed crisis strategy, clear roles and responsibilities and a dedicated response team.