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Cybercrime and the Middle East

Cybercrime and the Middle East

Thanks to the recession, there’s been an explosion of cybercrime – both regionally and worldwide. Atique Naqvi finds out how criminals are staying one step ahead.

October 20, 2010 4:26 by

No matter how smart your anti-virus software is, scammers and cyber criminals are always a few steps ahead. The immense power of such scammers recently lured an educated, U.A.E.-based man to log on to a website, following up with telephone calls to a lawyer at what turned out to be a fictitious brokerage company. At first the man invested only a small amount of cash. But after speaking with the “lawyer” on the phone, he coughed up more funds.

Then there’s the story of a former colleague who took the battle with Internet scammers to a new level. Wooed by an e-mail asking him to share thousands of unclaimed dollars, he sent some $2,000 to cover mailing and legal expenses to gain access to the unclaimed wealth. As he had relatives in Nigeria, he flew to the country and learned that the address of the contact person and legal firm was fake.

These two recent incidents point toward a trend. At the same time as most businesses across the world have slowed, cyber criminals have become hyperactive, misleading desperate investors, retirees, and pensioners. People whose investment portfolios have shrunk due to the economic crisis are exploring ways to get some of their money back, and in the process falling for Internet scams. The fraud schemes conducted in the cyber world have increased substantially in the past few years.

Currently, the nature of cyber crimes is financially-driven, says a senior executive with Symantec, a global software security company. Its regional director for the Middle East and Africa, Johnny Karam, says the Internet attacks some five or six years back were motivated by the desire to earn fame, with hackers defacing popular Web sites and posting messages on them. But the landscape has changed in the past few years, and the attacks are now more financially-driven.

Symantec, which has the largest global intelligence network outside the military, scans five billion e-mails a day. This gives the firm an opportunity to understand the nature of attacks and malicious software. “We have four security operations centers that keep a close eye on cyber attacks and put counter-measures in place,” Karam says.
The new twist in the tale is that cyber criminals are now coming together and working in groups. Organized crime is on the rise, says Karam, adding that there are several levels of attacks – infiltration, discovery of information, and procurement of data being some of them. These organized groups have reached a stage where they have dedicated teams looking after each of those stages.

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1 Comment

  1. Amir Hussain Khadim on October 26, 2010 8:02 am

    Such attacks/scams are nothing new. Most of us have been receiving emails like these since email has been invented. As a matter of fact, such scams existed even in the times of snail mail. I remember getting a mail in early 90’s from “Switzerland” telling me I won a diamond pendant in some international lottery and all they want were the making charges :) . All you need to avoid being a victim of such scams is an IQ higher than an average vegetable and some control over your greed…


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