Imports of cyber technologies showcase a hike in MENA region

The rising cyber attacks show no signs of slowing down. This has put the countries in the MENA region under huge pressure to import and build cyber capabilities. Simultaneously, it has also provided the foreign cyber companies an opportunity to get established in the region.

Recently, Cyber Intelligence Specialist Nexa technology, formerly known as Amesys (Advanced Middle East System), based in Paris with offices in Dubai and the Czech Republic is overhauling its governance and subsidiaries.

Apparently, Nexa acquired Trovicor last year. The latter is the most prolific of the mass surveillance companies that have been selling spy technologies to several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Some reports suggest that Nexa has been willing to capitalise on Trovicor’s previous position in the Middle Eastern market.

On the other hand, numerous past associations state that Middle East is now open to international cyber firms. For instance, Saudi Arabia took help from NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to spy on its citizens and to target the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. NSO used Whatsapp to target the individuals.

Initially, UAE hired Baltimore-based firm Cyberpoint, which employed former NSA agents to conduct cyber-espionage. Some of these workers were later hired by the Emirati company DarkMatter, which not only conducted surveillance against local citizens, but also spied on the Yemeni activists and hacked an iPhone used by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. The company also spied on U.S. citizens.

Qatar took help from Global Risk Advisors (GRA), a US-based consulting firm, to extract information out of Broidy’s personal emails. Few months back, Qatar signed an agreement with Plantir technologies, a US-based software company, for handling their big data analytics. Qatar also took help from Turkey in its technological sphere.

Italian company Area SpA assisted Syrian authorities in following the citizens’ movements in real time through installation of monitoring centres that would allow “to intercept, scan and catalogue virtually every e-mail that flows through the country”.

Governments of Syria and Turkey have used DPI solutions to redirect users to download spyware, allowing authorities to monitor and redirect internet traffic. DPI analyses data traffic, which runs through a deep packet inspection device to determine what applications are involved.

It is quite evident that Middle Eastern giants are no more limiting their scope of influence to traditional security measures but are taking proactive steps to build a strong preventive mechanism with the help of cyber operations and its confidant cyber associations.

Past and future incidents suggest that Middle East is steadily improving offensive and defensive cyber capabilities to pace up with the ongoing cyber threats.

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