Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have joined forces to establish a global platform aimed at combating ransomware hackers, as announced by the Israeli government on Wednesday. This collaborative effort comes on the heels of Israel’s assistance to the UAE in fending off a major cyberattack. The UAE’s head of cybersecurity, Sheikh Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, acknowledged Israel’s support during the Tel Aviv Cyber Week conference.
Dubbed the Crystal Ball initiative, the platform aims to enhance the sharing of cyber intelligence among multiple countries, bolstering collective defenses against digital crimes such as ransomware attacks. Developed as an advanced cloud platform, Crystal Ball is the result of collaboration between Microsoft Israel, the Israeli National Cyber Directorate, and the UAE Cyber Council. Microsoft Israel CEO Alon Haimovich stressed the need for such a response to combat the increasing sophistication of hackers.
The Crystal Ball platform will provide real-time capabilities and knowledge for effectively combating ransomware attacks, enabling continuous, convenient, and high-quality cooperation. It is a part of the International Counter Ransomware Initiative (CRI), led by the White House, and includes 15 member states such as the UAE, Germany, Great Britain, Singapore, and Interpol.
The establishment of the CRI in late 2022 aimed to strengthen the global response to cybercrime, which has seen a significant surge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Government agencies have become prime targets, experiencing a 95% increase in cyberattacks in the second half of 2022 compared to the previous year. Countries such as India, the United States, Indonesia, and China have been particularly targeted.
According to Vibin Shaju, Vice President of Solutions Engineering for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at cybersecurity firm Trellix, emerging economies undergoing rapid digitization, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, are particularly vulnerable. These nations’ substantial investments in digital mega-projects have attracted the interest of cyber attackers.
Shaju highlighted the importance of shared data initiatives like the UAE-Israel-led Crystal Ball platform in identifying the source, type, and mechanisms of attacks, especially those that are recycled and reused across multiple countries. As artificial intelligence enables hackers to automate the creation of ransomware, identifying common patterns becomes crucial. By sharing knowledge and information about cyberattacks, entities and countries can increase their chances of effectively countering evolving threats.
While the battle against rapidly evolving ransomware remains challenging, initiatives like Crystal Ball provide a ray of hope in the ongoing fight against cybercrime. The collaboration between Israel and the UAE sets a positive example of international cooperation to safeguard digital ecosystems and protect against the growing threat landscape.