The Impact of Ransomware on Media Workflows in the Middle East

March 6, 2024 · 5 min read
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By Rhian Morgan

The Impact of Ransomware on Media Workflows in the Middle East

Standing at the forefront of creativity and innovation, the global media and entertainment industry is in an era of digital transformation. As well as changing the way we consume content, technological advancements and data-driven insights are reshaping the way media companies produce, manage, and distribute their content.

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The Middle East in particular, is enjoying rapid growth and modernization within the digital landscape. With the economy set to rise from USD 42.72bn in 2024 to USD 66.99bn by 20291, there are huge opportunities for broadcasters and media organizations to tap into the potential, diversify their offerings, and expanding their reach across the region.

However, despite the promising outlook for the Middle East M&E industry, there are several crucial factors to consider:

  1. Is your current infrastructure capable of handling a surge in utilization?
  2. Do you have cost-effective and scalable storage in place to manage a growing amount of data?
  3. Do you have the security measures in place to protect your content and data from unauthorised visitors and ransomware?

The Rising Threat of Ransomware

Unlike the first two considerations, the third is hugely impacted by external factors. Along with the growth of the M&E sector in the Middle East, will likely come a rise in the threat of cyberattacks and ransomware. As organizations continue to generate vast amounts of data, the responsibility for its protection and preservation will take higher precedence.

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In 2023, the global average cost of a data breach reached a staggering USD 4.45m, with the Middle East firmly positioned as the second-highest targeted region2. Although shocking, these statistics emphasize the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures – the lack of data security in such a diverse and dynamic industry can be devastating for media companies.

Why Media is Particularly at Risk

Media assets, ranging from valuable intellectual property to sensitive user information, are prime targets for cybercriminals seeking unauthorized access, manipulation, or even ransom. A breach not only poses financial risks but also jeopardizes the integrity and trustworthiness of media organizations. As media companies increasingly rely on digital platforms for content creation, storage, and distribution, they inadvertently expose themselves to new vulnerabilities.

In 2020, there was a reported 33% increase in new ransomware threat groups in the UAE, with 78% of UAE organizations thought to the effected3. And although not directly linked to the M&E sector, media organizations need to be aware that the growing value and visibility of their assets is likely to attract unwanted attention. Furthermore, the lack of regulation across the media industry makes it an easier target for attackers. Research4 has also found that media companies are twice as likely to be compromised compared to other sectors, due to the complex nature of the supply chain.

Understanding the tactics employed by ransomware is crucial in developing an effective defense strategy. While encrypting massive media libraries byte by byte might seem impractical, hackers exploit vulnerabilities:

  1. Encryption of file system metadata indexer.
  2. Encryption of parts of files, causing havoc without encrypting the entire content.
  3. Encryption of file system and folder names, potentially coupled with file movement.
  4. Directly encrypting blocks on disks, bypassing file system defenses.

Defending Your Assets with Immutability

Immutable data (file systems, data vaults, etc) means that once data is written then it is unchangeable and undeletable, therefore providing a solid defense against ransomware.

However, not all immutable systems are equal. A major problem is file systems that are vulnerable to attacks that go around the immutability defenses. For example, if you run an immutable file system on a Windows machine, and the machine gets hacked, what’s to stop the hacker from ignoring the file system software and just directly scrambling blocks on the disks outside of the operating system? The answer is none and this is a common tactic used by hackers.

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A solution is needed that is independently firewalled and that supports immutability across all access points. However, media workflows present particular challenges. Some data vaults must allow for updates, especially during the window when data is being written, enabling applications to close and reopen files for metadata or flag updates. To accommodate varying immutability levels, administrators may need the ability to time-unlock or manually override permanence, reflecting the nuanced nature of media retention preferences.

Balancing these considerations is crucial, ensuring flexibility within storage systems while maintaining the necessary security measures for media assets. Evidently, managing media comes with unique challenges so having a partner that understands media workflows and cyber security risks is crucial for safeguarding assets against intelligent and evolving threats.

Perifery’s media-focused object storage solution, Object Matrix, is a highly firewalled solution that provides a range of additional defences against ransomware, spyware, viruses, and hackers. Access to Object Matrix is always via an API, so you can remain in control of user authentication and authorization.

As we navigate the evolving digital landscape of the Middle East, the protection and preservation of data is essential for the continuity and credibility of the thriving media and entertainment industry in the region.

Get started with Perifery today.

  1. Mordor Intelligence, Middle East Media and Entertainment Market Size ↩︎
  2. IBM, Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 ↩︎
  3. TahawulTech, 78% of Organisations in the UAE were Infected with Ransomware in 2020 ↩︎
  4. BlueVoyant, Media Industry Cybersecurity Challenges ↩︎

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