The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the two largest economies in the Arabian Gulf. According to a report released by California-based cyber-security technology company Crowd Strike, their government and defense sectors will be Iran’s main targets, as it seeks geopolitical prominence.

Rawad Sarieddine, regional head of Crowd Strike in Dubai said, “Governments and businesses need to be aware of the threat and be prepared to deal with that.” He added, “Our report has found that Iran, along with other actors, continues to be a destructive threat, not only within the Middle East but also to companies based in western countries that may do business or maintain infrastructure in the region.”

Crowd Strike’s report reviewed incidents of both eCrime, which is any type of criminal activity that takes place over the internet or through mobile devices, as well as state-sponsored cyberattacks across the world. The company is also hosting a cybersecurity session at Global Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC) that began in Dubai on Monday.

In Davos, a survey was released in January by the World Economic Forum about the top risks for businesses in the next 10 years. Executives in the UAE focused on technology-related concerns including cyber-attacks, data fraud, and the misuse of technology.

According to cyber-espionage analysts, an Iranian group called APT39, which was mainly targeting the telecoms industry in the Middle East, has been exposed by the US-based cyber-security firm FireEye. Benjamin Read, a senior manager of cyber espionage analysis at FireEye explained that APT39 differs from other Iranian cyber espionage groups, in that, “APT39’s focus on personal information likely supports the planning, monitoring and tracking of intelligence operations that serve Iran’s national priorities.”

Last month, tech giant Microsoft published a report linking Iranian hackers to cyber-attacks that targeted more than 200 companies, including some in Saudi Arabia. Microsoft said it seized 99 websites used by Iranian hackers to steal sensitive information and launch other cyberattacks.

The New York Times reports that Iranian hackers have significantly stepped up their game: harder to track down and more effective. And, according to a report by McAfee, makers of the industry standard software for computer security, and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, cybercrime costs reached about $600 billion (Dh2.2 trillion) globally in 2017, or 0.8 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.