x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE among '50 most spammed countries'

Almost three in four emails in the UAE are unwanted advertising or what could be malicious attacks, a leading internet security company says.

DUBAI // Almost three in four emails in the UAE are unwanted advertising or what could be malicious attacks, a leading internet security company says.

This makes the Emirates' users among the 50 most spammed countries, the latest Global Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec says.

The company says the global number of malicious attacks, including viruses and attempts to trick users into divulging personal information, rose by 81 per cent last year.

The UAE still improved its ranking, from the 36th worst-affected country in 2010 to 46th last year.

That has been attributed to greater awareness of threats, a tougher stance by authorities on pirated software and improved sharing of intelligence with other countries.

But Justin Doo, Symantec's head of security practice in the region, says the threat is growing.

"In 2011 cyber criminals greatly expanded their reach, targeting markets in the Middle East like the UAE, which has a continuously growing economy and a high rate of internet users," Mr Doo said.

"We've also seen a large increase in attacks on mobile devices across the globe, making these devices a viable platform for attackers to leverage in targeting sensitive data."

A common tactic was to use high-profile news stories, such as the death of the former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, as email subjects to grab attention.

Although the total number of spam emails fell from 62 billion in 2010 to 42 billion last year, phishing attacks, in which senders try to trick users into giving personal details, continued to increase, from one in every 442 emails in 2010 to one in every 298 last year.

"Moving beyond spam, cyber criminals are then turning to social networks to launch their attacks," the report said.

"The very nature of these networks makes users incorrectly assume they are not at risk.

"Because of social-engineering techniques and the viral nature of social networks, it's much easier for threats to spread from one person to the next."

Threats to mobile devices also increased by 93 per cent, with those using the Android operating system at particular risk.

For the first time, mobile malware became a "tangible" threat to businesses and consumers. There were 315 new threats last year compared with 163 in 2010.

But hacking posed the greatest threat, with 187 million identities exposed last year.

nhanif@thenational.ae