Event Reports

The Future of Middle Eastern Cyber Warfare

Meeting of the Mediterranean Advisory Group

Expert workshop on cyber security and cyber warfare in the MENA region

Over the last years, the MENA region has developed into one of the central conflict theatres for cyber warfare – a development that has further intensified geopolitical tensions in the region. To contribute to a better understanding of the impact of cyber warfare on regional security, the KAS Regional Program South Mediterranean invited renowned experts from Germany, Europe, the US and the MENA region to an expert workshop entitled “The Future of Middle Eastern Cyber Warfare” from 26-27 April.

Discussions in the framework of the workshop focused on the cyber capacities and vulnerabilities of state and non-state actors in the MENA region, the developments to be expected in this regard, as well as how these issues are treated in international law and through international norms. Experts shed light both on the role of state and non-state actors in the domain of cyber security.

Cyber warfare as rapidly developing phenomenon is characterized by its multitude of forms, motivations and targets. Cyber attacks come in the form of kinetic attacks against physical targets and networks to compromise their functioning, to access and steal sensitive data or even to destroy infrastructures. Cyber attacks classified as information warfare on the other hand aim at influencing public opinion, for example by spreading false news and hampering the access to information. Targets of these cyber attacks are not only governments, but also the private sector as well as individuals. Regarding the perpetrators of cyber attacks, the discussions highlighted a similar variety of actors, from criminal groups, to politically-motivated private hacker groups and even government-supported or government-initiated hacker groups.

It is exactly this variety of motivations, goals and forms of cyber warfare that makes any analysis of the phenomenon so challenging. It is thus of utmost importance, to expand and deepen the expertise on the topic to allow for a better understanding of cyber warfare and its implications. In an effort to provide a platform for this, the workshop thus brought together experts from government institutions, the private sector as well as think tanks in order to contribute to a better understanding of cyber warfare and its impact on security in the MENA region.