Forget your laptops and PCs, cybercrime has now wormed its way into your pockets and purses, with industry experts revealing that mobile security threats are growing at an alarming rate in the UAE.
Speaking at a GITEX Technology Week media event, Lt Colonel Faisal Alshamari, Abu Dhabi Police and Ministry of Interior, revealed in the last one year alone, cyber crime reports in the country have increasingly shunned your traditional platforms to find a leap in hackers targeting mobile phone users.
“Everyone is online these days, with your BlackBerrys, iPhones and other smartphones allowing users to access the internet instantaneously,” said Alshamari. “Hackers have smartened up and have realised a weak link, giving many the opportunity to exploit users who are caught unawares or simply haven’t taken the necessary precaution to protect themselves.”
Cybercrime in the UAE has tightened its noose around end users in recent years, with last year alone seeing $600 million spent in the country to combat this very threat.
Quiz Alshamari though and he says the number is much higher.
He said: “The $600m is a very rough estimate, which doesn’t even begin to include the operational cost that goes into fighting cybercrime annually. I would put that estimate at much higher, even double.”
While some may still question the UAE’s vulnerability to cybercrime, but according to a recent Norton Cybercrime Report, two people are affected by this threat every minute across all platforms, including traditional computers, mobile phones, gaming consoles and others.
The astounding figure only seconds the other statistic that claims nearly 76 per cent of UAE residents have been victims of data theft over the past 12 months.
Industry experts say no one is exempt from cyber crime threat, be it individuals, corporates or governments, especially with high tech packages now readily available on the black market to facilitate from small time hacking to espionage.
At a government level, the UAE last year became a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, a global entity that fights cybercrime across boundaries.
“Cybercrime is borderless and forever evolving, so we as a government body, aside from introducing laws within the country, we need to ensure we are working with our counterparts in different countries to tackle the problem at its root,” said Alshamari.
He gave the example of the Nigerian inheritance scam, which originated from another country, made its way into many an inbox within the UAE and later even wound its way into a phishing scam over mobile phone devices.
But the government’s involvement doesn’t stop there. Awareness campaigns that are educating individuals in upping their security and reporting the crime to authorities is taking the fight forward.
“Mobile devices particularly are developing into an easy target, with many individuals carrying company provided phones and using it as an open channel for personal use,” he added.
However, Alshamari quotes recent studies that state young children are the most vulnerable to cybercrime, and it is up to parental vigilance to ensure the safety of the young ones and themselves.
“It is terrible to see young children in Dubai playing with BlackBerry devices,” he stated. “Earlier, many parents handed such a device to their kids, not knowing that a proxy did not exist for this.
“Did they not realise that such negligence was leaving their kids open to being violated not by just your regular hackers and identity theft thieves, but also sexual predators who were targeting young children?”
Now with BlackBerry’s proxy well and truly established here, Alshamari says that parents need to continue their vigilance and always remember self-awareness is always the first line of defence in any battle.