The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates has fended off an onslaught from hackers trying to bring down its website, the bank's head of information technology (IT) told Reuters on Sunday.
Israeli hackers were apparently behind the attack, having vowed to target various state-linked websites in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in revenge for a wave of credit card code thefts by a hacker who claimed to be operating out of Saudi Arabia. The websites of Israeli institutions have also been targeted.
Hackers launched the denial-of-service (DoS) attack - usually flooding a Web server with false information to make it crash - against the UAE central bank website on Thursday, said Bob Thomson, chief manager of IT.
In response, UAE telecoms operator Etisalat, which provides fixed line services to the bank, blocked access to the website from abroad and this thwarted the hackers, Thomson said.
"There was no damage done to the website," he added. "Etisalat was ultra careful, which was the right approach."
Hackers calling themselves the IDF Team, an apparent reference to the Israel Defence Force, said on Wednesday in an online post they would disable the UAE central bank website.
Hackers claimed last week to have disrupted the websites of the Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi stock exhanges. Both bourses denied their websites had been breached.
Rashed Al Baloushi, acting director general of Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), said its website was not specifically targeted. "We have been checking the database and no abnormal access took place," he added.
Cyber crime in the Middle East is soaring.
"There are multiple forms of cyber crime - one could be stealing confidential data, another could be 'hactivism', which is a group of hackers attacking a corporation, institution or government because they didn't agree with their policies," said Bulent Teksoz, Symantec chief security strategist for emerging markets.
"We're seeing more focused attacks on organisations."
Teksoz said cyber crime in the Middle East could be more widespread than thought because of low levels of disclosure in the region.
"Hactivism has been a major threat in 2011 and we expect it to be so again in 2012," said Teksoz.
"The threat is real - we have targeted attacks coming into the region and they are designed to get intelligence and confidential information and create chaos."