The Middle East is one of the most-targeted regions in the world by cybercriminals, according to the chairman of the World Union of Arab Bankers said .
"In the event of an online attack that leads to the loss of personal data of any EU citizen or entity affiliated with the European Union, and if these institutions have not complied with the general data protection regulation, or have not reported infringements according to a Thomson Reuters report in March 2019, these entities will be subject to severe penalties," Joseph Torbey, president of the Association of Banks in Lebanon and chairman of the World Union of Arab Bankers, said in his speech at the opening of the Arab Banking Compliance Forum.
"The Middle East is one of the world's most-targeted areas of cybercrime and data loss," he added.
The Middle East is one of the world’s most-targeted areas of cybercrime and data loss"
Torbey underscored that Arab banks needed to be fully alert to the dangers of cybercrime and the loss of sensitive data.
"All Arab banks and financial institutions dealing with personal data of EU citizens should take appropriate measures in line with the provisions of the Public Data Protection Act, with significant changes in the way sensitive personal data is stored, processed and disseminated," Torbey added.
Torbey said a data protection officer should be appointed in the compliance units of financial institutions and banks.
Lebanese and Arab banks have invested heavily in the development of compliance departments in a bid to foil any attempt to infiltrate the banking system by money launderers and illicit financial operators.
Iran, which is accused of launching state-sponsored cyber espionage attacks against the Middle East in the past, continues to be a major threat to businesses and government institutions across the region in 2019.
Government and defence sectors in the UAE and Saudi Arabia - the two largest economies in the Arabian Gulf - will be the main targets, as Iran seeks geopolitical prominence, according to a report released by California-based cyber-security technology company CrowdStrike.
"Governments and businesses need to be aware of the threat and be prepared to deal with that," said Rawad Sarieddine, regional head of CrowdStrike in Dubai.
SIS and McAfee's study reported the UAE as the second most targeted country in the world for cybercrime, costing the Emirate an estimated $1.4bn per year.
Meanwhile, 2017's Norton Cyber Security Insights Report highlighted a number of other considerations, including the 47.9 hours lost per consumer to cybercrime in the Emirates last year, compared with a global average of 23.6 hours.
With 3.72 million people affected, which is more than half UAE's population, the impact, as in other countries, ranges from malware infections on 53% in UAE versus 48% globally, through to ransomware victims, 18% of whom in UAE, and 17% globally, paid the ransom but did not receive access back to their files.
Cybercrime is increasing, takes more time to resolve, and is more expensive for organizations, according to the Ninth Annual Cost of Cybercrime Study released this week by Accenture and the Ponemon Institute.
The average cost of cybercrime for an organization has increased $1.4 million over the past year, to $13.0 million, and the average number of security breaches in the last year rose by 11 percent from 130 to 145.