October 16, 2023 | Policy Brief

U.S.-UAE Cybersecurity Cooperation Marks Needed Collaboration in the Region

October 16, 2023 | Policy Brief

U.S.-UAE Cybersecurity Cooperation Marks Needed Collaboration in the Region

The United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cybersecurity cooperation. Against the backdrop of surging Iranian and criminal cyberattacks predating and unfolding during the Israel-Hamas war, enhanced cyber collaboration between Washington and its partners in the region can help mitigate shared cyber threats.

The MoU improves cybersecurity collaboration between the countries’ financial sectors to “protect the integrity of the international financial system,” the U.S. Department of the Treasury said. The MoU also promotes information sharing of financial sector cybersecurity incidents and threats, enhances staff training and study visits, and encourages joint “competency-building activities,” including cyber exercises and other capacity building. Treasury explained that the collaboration is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to counter ransomware.

This agreement is the latest in a series of cybersecurity initiatives in the Middle East, most notably the announcement in February that Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco were expanding the Abraham Accords to include cybersecurity collaboration. In its wake, Israel and the UAE rolled out a cyber threat intelligence sharing platform in July to counter ransomware threats. Other Abraham Accords signatories and members of the Biden administration’s Counter Ransomware Initiative of more than 30 nations are also participating in the platform.

The new MoU also builds on Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo’s November 2021 trips to the UAE and Israel, during which Treasury announced a similar partnership with Israel to combat ransomware.

Israel and the UAE have already demonstrated how cyber cooperation can repel attacks. Alongside the announcement of the intelligence platform, UAE cyber security chief Mohamed Al-Kuwaiti disclosed that Israel helped his country thwart a distributed denial of service attack.

With Israel now facing surging cyberattacks from pro-Hamas criminal hacktivists and the United States offering cybersecurity support, the bilateral and multilateral cooperation Washington has facilitated may soon show its return on investment. Prior to the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Jerusalem was already the target of 38 percent of all nation-state attacks because of “Iran’s extensive focus” on the Jewish state, according to Microsoft.

The UAE is the second most targeted country in the region, according to Microsoft data, and therefore may be able to share early indicators and warnings with its Israeli partners. The United States can provide analytical support to help Israel sift through the volumes of incoming cyber threat information.

That the exponential rise in distributed denial of service attacks on Israel has had very limited impact speaks to the country’s cyber resilience. Washington can support this resilience by rallying the regional collaboration it has sought to build over the past two years.

Annie Fixler is the director of the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation (CCTI) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and an FDD research fellow. Michael Sugden is a research analyst and editorial associate with CCTI. For more analysis from the authors and CCTI and FDD’s Israel Program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Annie on X @afixler. Follow FDD on X @FDD and @FDD_CCTI. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


Arab Politics Cyber Gulf States