REPORT: Saudi & UAE at high risk to cyber-crime, hackers aim to steal passwords & credit card numbers

by Mustapha Ajbaili, Al Aribiya

Saudi Arabia was ranked first and the United Arab Emirates second as the most vulnerable of the Gulf countries to fall victim to cyber-crimes, such as website hacking, according to a statistics report recently published by Trend Micro.

In Saudi Arabia 796,000 cases of computer system crashes instigated by hackers were recorded in the past nine months, accounting for 64 percent of the total number of cases in the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), according to Trend Micro, a firm specialized in network antivirus and Internet content security.

Meanwhile, in the UAE the number of computer system crashes as a result of cyber attacks reached 248,000 in the same period, accounting for 20 percent of the total cases in the GCC countries, according to the report.

Last week the website of the Saudi-based al-Watan newspapers was hacked by suspected supporters of a religious cleric who was sacked from the kingdom’s Council of Senior Clerics board.

Al Arabiya website also was shut down in October 2008 following an attack by hackers accusing the Dubai-based news channel of supporting Sunni over Shiite Muslims.

Hackers infiltrated the system of the U.S.-based company that hosts the domain name and hacked it, but Al Arabiya's servers continued working.

The report said most cases of system collapse in Saudi Arabia and the UAE involved attacks by hackers to steal valuable data such as passwords and credit card numbers.

A Saudi cabinet meeting approved on March 26 a regulation to combat cyber-crimes allowing for fines up to SR11 million ($2.93 million) depending on the seriousness of electronic crimes committed.

The cabinet also passed another regulation for electronic transactions and both were prepared by the Information and Communication Technologies Commission in cooperation with the Ministry of Information.

But the prosecution of computer hackers by local authorities is almost impossible because, according to the Trend Micro report, most attacks come from countries outside the region.

The Arab League prepares to hold a workshop in the coming days to discuss ways to reduce cyber-crimes and enhance systems protection.

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