x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Smartphones partly to blame for hike in spam

Growing popularity of smartphones in the UAE and Saudi Arabia is blamed for an uplift in malicious spam emails sent by global cyber-criminals.

The increasing use of smartphones in the UAE and Saudi Arabia has been blamed for the rising tide of malicious emails sent by global cyber criminals.

Saudi Arabia recently overtook Russia as the world's worst country for unsolicited email spam. More than 85 per cent of total email traffic in the kingdom is spam, according to the antivirus specialist Symantec.

The UAE ranks as the ninth hardest-hit country for unsolicited emails, with 78.9 per cent of all email traffic last month classed as spam.

"Cyber crime is shifting towards the emerging economies," said Bulent Teksoz, a security strategist for the Middle East at Symantec. "This is where the cyber criminals believe the low-hanging fruit is."

Growing popularity of devices such as the BlackBerry and Apple iPhone is cited as one factor behind the rising levels of spam in the Gulf region.

"In Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the mobile market is really huge," said Mr Teksoz. "That's a big market for cyber criminals … because smartphones are not as secure as computers."

The UAE has one of the highest mobile phone penetrations in the world, with an average of about two lines per person.

Mr Teksoz said cyber criminals were creating phishing sites - those designed to farm consumers' login details - specifically formatted for mobile phones.

He said cyber criminals had also created mobile applications designed to farm sensitive data.

"We always tell people not to download applications from unauthorised sites," said Mr Teksoz. "They want to get your identification - your banking details, social media logins or your corporate ID."

Spam emails, many of which are malicious, are growing worldwide.

Symantec estimate that 77.8 per cent of worldwide email traffic last month was classed as spam, an increase of 4.9 per cent on June.

Other antivirus companies agreed that the spamming problem was getting worse.

Paul Baccas, the senior threat researcher at SophosLabs, said 96 to 98 per cent of email sent was spam.

"Worldwide the trend is getting worse with a few dips," he said.

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