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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

More than 50 per cent of consumers exposed to cyber risk: survey

A survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab found that 54 per cent of respondents leave their devices unprotected from cyber-attacks

Mohammed Hasbini, senior security researcher at Kaspersky, said Abu Dhabi and Dubai need to be prepare as they increasingly become "smarter". Pawan Singh / The National
Mohammed Hasbini, senior security researcher at Kaspersky, said Abu Dhabi and Dubai need to be prepare as they increasingly become "smarter". Pawan Singh / The National

More than half of consumers are at risk of having data such as pictures, videos and bank account details stolen by failing to activate even basic security like smartphone pin numbers.

Data from a survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab — a global cyber-security company — during the first half of the year, found that 54 per cent of respondents leave their devices unprotected from cyber-attacks, a figure which remained unchanged from the survey conducted last year.

Some 73 per cent of respondents said they were unconcerned about digital hacking, a 6 per cent drop from the same period last year.

Despite a nonchalant attitude towards cyber-security, another 51 per cent of respondents from the UAE said the loss of their data would be disastrous.

“Privacy, money, children and data is what needs protection,” said Amir Kanaan, general manager for the Middle East at Kaspersky Lab. “Our goal is to show how data is valuable. We sometimes think our data is worthless but it’s not — some of the content we generate is sometimes.”

He said cyber-criminals were well aware of the value of data yet most of the time, internet users are not.

“Our main goal is to educate people in order to safeguard this important information of data, like pictures and credit cards, to combat the cyber-threat that they may encounter,” Mr Kanaan said. “Unfortunately, some only know the value of their data after they’ve been hit by ransomware.”

More than half of those asked said they felt unprotected and do not take any measures to defend their account and data while 42 per cent said they had previous issues which caused them trouble, anxiety and money loss.

“I see cyber-risks everywhere,” said Mohammed Hasbini, senior security researcher at Kaspersky. “We live in a world that extremely depends on technology, whether on our own devices, smart watches, company systems or in everyday life and as we move towards smarter cities, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we need to prepare ourselves to be ready to deal with technologies and deal with them from both sides because they have a lot of positive but some of their negatives could be dangerous.”

The survey also showed that for 59 per cent of people in the UAE, private and sensitive photos of themselves are the most precious data they have on their devices, followed by photos of their children and spouses.

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However, when confronted with the decision to delete this data for money, people gave their digital data away for as little as Dh45.

“I wouldn’t be surprised by any increase in the amount of data that’s being exposed on underground webs and the number of people worrying,” said Stuart Davis, director in global services and intelligence at FireEye.

“Every day or week, some new online service company wishes to know a little more about us and depending on how valuable these services are to us, like Uber, what ends up happening is there’s a profile stored in a database that we assume is protected. The reason 73 per cent are not concerned is because there hasn’t been a service where they’ve been exposed in the UAE.”

As Dubai’s vision continues to follow digitalisation, people’s lives are made easier. But more data is being placed in one location.

“Dubai will continue to put safeguards online but what may start happening is localised losses of data for people within the city,” he said. “And when they become public, we’ll see the unconcern drop heavily.”

There has been an increasing trend in cyber-attacks causing massive damage for users, organisations, industries and governments alike.

“Governments pay ransoms because they need access to their data,” said Mr Hasbini. “Hackers have been using a weakness that enables them to spread. Many people also don’t install updates which is something else to worry about.”

Along with the WannaCry incident, the world’s biggest ransomware attack which affected 200,000 computers in 150 countries, NotPetya cost some companies, such as FedEx, hundreds of millions of dollars in June.

“Hackers infiltrated this organisation and put the malware inside an update to the company software,” he said. “Instead of infecting millions of users, they infected one organisation and pushed the malware through an update which was automatically deployed to hundreds of thousands of systems. That’s how attackers are innovating, they’re trying to reach more victims and get more money and they’re greedy.”

He said more awareness needed to be raised. “Software updates and back-ups are measures that are not just important for information security, but for everyday use. Having defensive measures is important too, whether through personal control or through software that protects and defends against malware.”