Middle East & Africa: The Next Hotspot for Ransomware Attacks?

Penka Hristovska
Penka Hristovska Senior Editor
Penka Hristovska Penka Hristovska Senior Editor

The Middle East and Africa are going to have to join the global trend of improving their cybersecurity, as countries in the region will likely be forced to deal with a lot more cyberattacks due to ongoing geopolitical conflicts.

The State of Ransomware 2023 by Sophos, which was published earlier this year, showed that ransomware attacks against companies in South Africa increased by a whopping 78% in 2023, a considerable jump from the 51% recorded in 2022.

Meanwhile, cyberattacks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) went in a different direction. According to UAE government officials, they saw 70% fewer ransomware attacks in 2022 after taking serious measures to improve its cyber defenses.

It’s unclear whether South Africa has to deal with more cyberattacks now compared to the previous year because of the Israel-Gaza conflict in the region, but head of threat intelligence for the Europe, ME&A region at Google Mandiant, Jen Mondra, said cyber attacks are slowly becoming a mainstream digital weapon in geo conflicts.

“Cyber is now playing a role in any sort of geopolitical conflict, because it’s a domain that … comes with less cost and brings uncertainty, in terms of attribution,” Mondra said. “We haven’t really figured out how to draw a clear red line in the cyber domain. The line keeps being pushed, rather than somebody saying, now you’ve crossed the line.”

Israel has reported a sharp rise in various forms of cyberattacks since the beginning of the war with Hamas, including sabotage and digital break-ins.

The head of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, Gaby Portnoy, has said this is because Iran’s forces “know that they can act there more freely [in cyberspace] than in the physical space” and that the country is prepared to take on such attacks.

That’s on top of numbers that show it’s the most cyber attacked country in the region anyway — even before the war.

“Israel remains by far the most-targeted country in the Middle East and North Africa region as a result of Iran’s extensive focus there,” Microsofot said in its Digital Defense Report earlier this year.

About the Author
Penka Hristovska
Penka Hristovska
Senior Editor

About the Author

Penka Hristovska is an editor at SafetyDetectives. She was an editor at several review sites that covered all things technology — including VPNs and password managers — and had previously written on various topics, from online security and gaming to computer hardware. She’s highly interested in the latest developments in the cybersecurity space and enjoys learning about new trends in the tech sector. When she’s not in “research mode,” she’s probably re-watching Lord of The Rings or playing DOTA 2 with her friends.