DUBAI/PARIS – Israel and the United Arab Emirates have established a global platform to fight against ransomware hackers, according to an announcement made Wednesday by Israel’s government.
This comes a day after Israel helped the UAE fend off a major cyberattack, according to the UAE head of cybersecurity Sheikh Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, reported the Jerusalem Post.
The UAE is going through “a great digital transformation” in all sectors, Kuwaiti said at the Tel Aviv Cyber Week conference Tuesday. “And, in fact, we need to do a safe and secure transformation.”
The Crystal Ball initiative announced on Wednesday seeks to enhance the sharing capabilities of cyber-intelligence collected by multiple countries to improve the collective defenses against digital crime. The advanced cloud platform is a collaboration between Microsoft Israel, the Israeli National Cyber directorate, and the UAE Cyber Council.
While introducing the Crystal Ball platform in Israel on Wednesday, Microsoft Israel CEO Alon Haimovich said that this response is needed to combat the growing sophistication of hackers.
The platform will offer “the power, capabilities, and knowledge to fight ransom attacks in real time with continuous, convenient and high-quality cooperation,” he said, in an Israeli government press statement.
The platform is designed by Microsoft as part of the International Counter Ransomware Initiative (CRI), a global enterprise led by the White House that includes 15 member states including the UAE, Germany, Great Britain, Singapore, and also the International Criminal Police Organization, better known as Interpol.
The CRI was founded in late 2022 to strengthen the global response to cybercrime. The Covid-19 pandemic, and other factors that contributed to relying on cloud-based solutions, has severely heightened the exposure of government and private entities alike.
Cyberattacks targeting government agencies increased by 95% in the second half of 2022 compared to the same period the year before. About 40% of these threats targeted India, the United States, Indonesia and China.
Vibin Shaju, the vice president of solutions engineering for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at global cybersecurity company Trellix, said that emerging, quickly digitizing economies are prime targets.
“At the moment the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — during the World Cup — are the countries that are putting a lot of money and going digital with mega and giga-projects. This has big entities investing heavily, which is also attracting the interest of attackers,” he told Al-Monitor.
A shared data initiative, such as the UAE-Israel led Crystal Ball platform, could help faster identify the source, type or mechanism of these attacks, especially ones that are recycled and reused in multiple countries, added Shaju.
This is the case with rapidly advancing artificial intelligence, which allows hackers to automate the generation of ransomware and attack multiple entities more easily. Yet at the same time, artificially generated ransomwares are similar and can be spotted.
“The base model and the symptoms are the same. It has been done before and is easy to identify,” said Shaju, especially as more entities and countries share their knowledge of cyberattacks with one another.
Although the fast evolution of automated ransomwares makes it difficult to keep up, he added, initiatives like the UAE-Israel-led Crystal Ball can increase its chances.
Source : AlMonitor