Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cybercrime in the Middle East on the rise

Beirut (RPN) - Data protection and IT security is of increasing concern in the Middle East, where current research reveals an alarming upswing in cybercrime, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt topping the list as the most vulnerable to malicious internet attacks.
Internet security experts have classified the MENA region as one of the most vulnerable in the world to internet crime.  As one of the world’s fastest growing economic hubs and a region where business activity is characterized by an explosion of corporate data, protecting sensitive information is becoming a vital concern from legal, financial, and economic perspectives. 
Johnny Karam is the MENA region director for Symantec, an internet security firm.  In an interview with RPN, he emphasized the growing threats presented by the increasingly sophisticated activity of cybercriminals. 
"Cybercrime is certainly on the rise in the MENA region, and has spawned an underground economy, so to speak, where the goods traded include credit card information, active bank account details, and full-blown identities,” Karam said. 
This is an organized environment, where specialists are recruited for their ability to hack or phish for information.   Depending on its country of origin and other specifics, full credit card details – including acct number, full name, expiry date and security code, might sell for between 1 and ten dollars.  Full active bank account information can be purchased for as little as ten dollars.
Symantec’s research for 2008 ranked Egypt the most vulnerable of 230 countries sampled in terms of vulnerability to malicious acts, including virus transmission, hacking, spamming, and phishing.  Lebanon ranked 93. 
But Karam warns against the assumption that malicious activity originates only from outside the business being targeted, emphasizing a link between tough economic conditions and the upswing in cybercrime:
"With the difficult economic climate, many businesses are looking at the need to downsize.  They face the risk of information diversion as staff is downsized.  Confidential data may be diverted, either intentionally, or unintentionally.  The direct financial losses can be huge, as can the loss to a company’s brand name its customer list, or its advantage over competitors,” he explains.

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