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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

Cyber thugs frequently refer to well-established business organizations to lure victims. The deputy C.E.O. and managing director of the Dubai Financial Services Authority, Ian Johnston, uses the example of a fictitious financial exchange. He says some people set up a Web site for a fictitious organization called the Dubai Options Exchange, supposedly based at the Dubai International Financial Center. The perpetrators also set up a regulatory body for the center.

The company found that the bank account in which money was being deposited was in Malaysia and the investors were largely based in Australia and Singapore, Johnston says, adding that the Web site was hosted out of America.
The financial authority and American regulators worked together to shut down the Web site. Malaysian regulators helped freeze the bank account, which boasted $600,000. “If it were not for responsible nations such as the U.S. and Malaysia, the complexity in dealing with such a crime would have been more,” Johnston says. An arrest was made in Dubai and three people were held in Malaysia on charges of running the “exchange.”

Laws against cyber crime are not strong in some countries and organized gangs take advantage of such loopholes. These people carry out attacks in regions where chances of prosecution are less. “The Middle East is seen as a place where there is a lot of money and the regulations and law enforcement are not as strong as they are in America,” Karam says.

Costin Raiu, the director of Global Research and Analysis at Kaspersky, an IT security software vendor, says there has not been much change in the volume of profit and losses for cyber criminals (quantitative change). But he says there definitely has been a qualitative change – besides Windows, fraudsters are now attacking other platforms such as Mac and smart-phones.

Not only this, the criminals are customizing their attacks. Gangs are focusing on geographical areas where attacks can be customized. For instance, an attack can be in a local language or it can make references to local events and/or companies, Raiu says. These kinds of attacks have been observed in the Middle East as well, notably in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. With the Middle East holding some of the world’s most important financial markets, we can expect the volume of attack to increase during the next two years, he says.

Identity theft remains the biggest issue and credit card fraud is a close second, Karam says. “Credit cards are being sold for as cheap as a can of Coke. One can buy a fully functional credit card with CCV,” he says. Even bank account information is being sold for anything from $10 to $1,000. Criminals steal identities by hacking computers. Sometimes they get information from lost CDs and USB keys.

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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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