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Web users warned to be on guard

Norton outlines five upcoming threats for consumers.

Computer users in the Middle East face a number of cyber-threats in the next year as the adoption of internet-connected devices grows, says a leading technology security firm.

Norton outlined five upcoming threats including URL shorteners, social media identity theft and mobile device hacking that could affect consumers unless they take action to protect themselves.

Cybercrime has emerged as a growing threat in the Middle East after sophisticated online attacks using the Zeus Trojan Horse malware. Security experts say those attacks caused global banking industry losses of at least US$100 million (Dh367.3m).

"It's almost inevitable that 2011 will see a larger number of people in the Middle East region falling victim to cybercrime than ever before," said Tamim Taufiq, the head of consumer sales in the Middle East and North Africa for Symantec, the parent company of Norton.

"Taking your online personal protection seriously is a key New Year's resolution, as the number of high-profile cyber attacks witnessed globally is increasing consumer fears about the threats of spending time online."

Mr Taufiq explained how social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter could be preyed upon by cybercriminals who could send "unusual messages" to extract personal details and passwords from consumers.

Social media also play another role that consumers should be aware of, Mr Taufiq said.

Internet security firms including McAfee and Norton have warned that URL shorteners, online tools that shrink lengthy web addresses for use on sites such as Twitter, can be used to direct users to sites that install malicious software.

Mr Taufiq also said that mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will be targeted by hackers to access confidential data, which in turn could result in financial loss. "With technology gifts and purchases surging in the winter holiday season, the fact is that the more connected we become in the Middle East, the more cybercrime opportunities are created for criminals to exploit," Mr Taufiq said.



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