x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Cyber crime hits '76% of residents'

Police take steps to educate adults and children about cyber threats as report claims more than three-quarters of UAE residents were victims last year.

DUBAI // Computer users were urged yesterday to report cyber crimes and learn more about phishing, viruses and online scams, as a report claimed 76 per cent of residents were victims last year.

Police are taking steps to educate adults and children about threats through workshops and lectures.

"Cyber crime reporting rates are very low," Lt Col Faisal Mohamed Al Shamari, the chief information security officer with Abu Dhabi Police, said yesterday.

"We are looking at a reactive and proactive approach. We will have presentations dedicated to highlight awareness on how to report an incident on cyber crime."

The UAE ranks 36th globally in cyber-crime activity and spends more than Dh2.21 billion a year fighting it. Authorities said it was important for residents to "build their own line of defence" against such threats.

"We are not only encouraging them to report, we are encouraging them to understand technology and the embedded challenges before they start using them. They need to be self-aware to enable themselves to raise awareness among their children," Col Al Shamari said.

With 25 per cent of young people addicted to technology, parents needed to monitor their children's use of it, Col Al Shamari said. "This is another risk, not only for their health or safety, it also exposes children to sexual exploitation and identity theft. We are working very closely on raising awareness," he said.

More than three-quarters of people in the Emirates were victims of cyber crime last year, according to Symantec, which makes anti-virus software.

Johnny Karam, the compay's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said more than half the attacks used viruses and malware, and 19 per cent were online scams. Phishing messages, in which emails appearing to come from a bank or other company are used to steal passwords and other online identification, comprised another 18 per cent.

Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting companies and financial institutions. "We have to act very fast," Mr Karam said.

The report also said only two out of 10 people had reported cyber attacks to the police. Symantec surveyed 800 people over a year.

Officials also warned against mobile cyber crime, as smartphone users increasingly use the devices to access the internet.

They were speaking at the announcement of the opening of Gitex Technology Week from October 9 to 13 at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Several sessions during the week will focus on cyber security.

pkannan@thenational.ae