UAE target of cyber attacks after Israel deal, official says

The United Arab Emirates was the target of cyber attacks after establishing formal ties with Israel, the Gulf Arab state’s cyber security head said on Sunday.

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The United Arab Emirates was the target of cyber attacks after establishing formal ties with Israel, the Gulf Arab state’s cyber security head said on Sunday.

The UAE in August broke with decades of Arab policy when it agreed to forge ties with Israel in a move that angered Palestinians and some Muslim states and communities. Bahrain and Sudan have followed suit.

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“Our relationship, for example, with the normalization with Israel really opened a whole huge attacks from some other activists against the UAE,” Mohamed Hamad al-Kuwaiti said during an onstage interview at a conference in Dubai.

Kuwaiti said the financial sector was targeted but did not elaborate. He did not say if any of the attacks were sucessful or provide details on who the perpetrators were.

He also told the conference that the number of cyber attacks in the UAE increased sharply after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Kuwaiti said traditionally many attacks in the region originate from Iran, without specifying who is behind them. Iran has also said that it has been a victim of hacking.

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UAE establish National Cyber Security Council

Al Kuwaiti said the UAE had established a new National Cyber Security Council to develop policies and laws to strengthen cyber security, and ensure the country is not vulnerable to the types of attacks that could easily affect its society, government or businesses.

“The UAE has gone through a whole digital transformation,” he said. “The vision of our leadership is to build on top of that transformation.”

Lifting WhatsApp ban still under consideration

Al Kuwaiti said discussions were ongoing regarding lifting the ban on some Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services in the UAE, such as WhatsApp and FaceTime calling.

“WhatsApp was opened for a specific part of time and it was used for some testing procedures, with the collaboration from WhatsApp themselves. There are some regulations that they still need to adhere to, and they are working on that,” he said, though he did not elaborate on what those regulations were.

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“2021, we are optimistic towards that,” he added.

Popular services like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype for Business are now unlocked, allowing remote work and learning, but WhatsApp and Facetime remain blocked for voice and video calls, meaning residents typically have to use fee-based services from one of the state’s telecoms providers, Etisalat and Du.

Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk 

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