MANAMA: Local and international experts have warned of a surge in cyberattacks on companies and institutions in Bahrain.

The causes can be traced back to a number of factors: mainly the transfer of a major part of business to the Internet, the increased electronically-generated provision of services and products, as well as a direct result of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), which has further highlights the role of Internet as so many are working remotely.

According to experts, the current situation is tempting cybercriminals to launch more destructive attacks aimed at stealing money or data or to obtain a ransom through other malicious targets. What’s more concerning is that it is likely that employees of telecom operators and IT companies will be amongst the first to come under attack, although the finance industry seems to be the most tempting target.

Reasons for these attacks are many. They could be for spying purposes and financial theft. In addition, there could be a rise in the number of frauds, especially in the tourism industry (refund centres of airlines, hotels, etc.). Moreover, insiders whose salaries are reduced due to switching to remote working, may also cause harm to their organisations.

Yaqoob Al Awadhi, the chief executive of NGN International, a systems integrator and IT consultant, warned that cyberattacks will target financial institutions in particular.

He said that since most banks in Bahrain have stopped providing many services through their branches, and have asked their customers to conduct their transactions online, this has resulted in an increase in the number of people using electronic payment channels instead of cash payments, and, at its most benign, these may carry a virus of an electronic nature.

“Corporate businesses have also made their presence on the Internet more active under these current circumstances. A number of businesses, such as restaurants, are obliged not to receive customers at their main outlets and are only operating through their delivery system, which is mainly based on using the Internet. Also, we notice an increase in the number of firms that sell items or provide services that rely on online shopping to get paid,” said Mr Al Awadhi.

“In addition, there is an increased reliance on electronic platforms that provide video conferencing services and online learning platforms, as well as an upsurge in subscriptions to streaming video services, and mobile phone applications to deliver food and other items.”

Mr Al Awadhi stressed that coronavirus has forced many public and private sector employees to work remotely. This makes the corporations’ correspondence, documents and dealings more vulnerable to cybercrime due to their increased exposure to the Internet. A huge number of people in Bahrain and around the world are sitting in their homes all day and night spending a large amount of their time connected to the Internet.

Group-IB, an international provider of cybersecurity solutions and a partner of NGN International, issued a list of recommendations to ensure secure and trouble-free remote work. These recommendations include applying remote access to the organisation’s network strictly with two-factor authentication, avoiding access to the corporate network through third-party services that use intermediate servers, and making sure that there are up-to-date protection software systems in place on home computers. The responsibility lies with all users who should beware of using e-mail that may transmit harmful viruses, Mr Al Awadhi added.

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