More than 2.5 million UAE consumers affected by cybercrime in 2016

Tamim Taufiq, Norton Middle East

Norton by Symantec has released the findings from its annual Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, revealing 2.53 million consumers in the UAE have been victims of online crime in the past year as hackers take advantage of consumer complacency. 

The report shows that despite spending more than AED 5.2 billion ($1.4 billion) and an average of 31.5 hours per victim dealing with the consequences, UAE consumers affected by cybercrime in the past year are the most likely to continue engaging in risky online behaviour, leaving themselves vulnerable to further attacks.

The report, a survey of nearly 21,000 consumers globally, including 883 in the UAE, sheds a light on the impact of cybercrime and reveals that while consumer awareness of cybercrime is growing, many are complacent about protecting their personal information. Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) know they must actively protect their information online, yet are still willing to click on links or open malicious attachments from senders they don’t know.

Millennials in the UAE are the most commonly affected by online crime, with 53 percent having experienced it within the past year. Men (52 percent), and frequent travelers (50 percent) were also likely to report higher incidents of cybercrime.

Consumer complacency and risky online behaviours are helping hackers reap rewards from their efforts as they continue to hone their craft and adapt scams. Although phishing scams have been around for more than two decades, people still have a hard time identifying fake emails. Nearly one-third of UAE consumers are unable to identify a phishing attack.

“Our findings show that people are growing increasingly aware of the need to protect their personal information online, but aren’t motivated to take adequate precautions to stay safe,” said Tamim Taufiq, Head of Norton Middle East. “While consumers remain complacent, hackers are refining their skills and adapting their scams to further take advantage of people, making the need for consumers to take some action increasingly important.”

Consumers admit the risks are real

The prevalence of cybercrime has merged with peoples’ perception of real-world risks and many now see cybercrime dangers as equivalent to risks in the real world.

  • Nearly half of consumers (49 percent) indicated that it is now harder to stay safe and secure in the online world than in the real, physical world
  • More than half (59 percent) said they believe entering financial information online when connected to public Wi-Fi is riskier than reading their credit or debit card number aloud in a public place
  • 55 percent believe it’s more likely for someone to gain unauthorised access to their connected home devices than their physical homes

Bad habits are hard to break – online or otherwise

Experiencing cybercrime is a potential consequence of living in a connected world, but consumers still remain complacent and demonstrate risky online habits when it comes to protecting their personal information online.

  • UAE consumers are still willing to click on links from senders they don’t know or open malicious attachments. Three in ten (30 percent) cannot detect a phishing attack, and another nine percent have to guess between a real message and a phishing email, meaning nearly four in 10 are vulnerable
  • Millennials exhibit surprisingly slack online security habits and are happy to share passwords that compromise their online safety (36 percent). This is likely why they remain the most common victims of cybercrime with 53 percent of millennials in the UAE having experienced it in the past year
  • Despite a majority (64 percent) of consumers claiming to use a secure password on every account, nearly one-third (31 percent) share their passwords with others, and many (31 percent) fail to see the danger of using the same passwords across multiple accounts
  • One in five (21 percent) of people have at least one unprotected device, leaving their other devices vulnerable to ransomware, malicious websites, zero days and phishing attacks. Of these, 31 percent say they don’t do anything “risky” online, and one-third (32 percent) say it is because they don’t believe their devices need protection, leaving them vulnerable to attack
  • With a love for constant connectivity, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of UAE consumers are willing to install a third party programme to access public Wi-Fi rather than go without.

Hackers hone skills to reap rewards

As consumers remain complacent with their online security habits, hackers are taking full advantage, honing their skills to compromise online accounts.

  • While two in five (42 percent) feel overwhelmed about the amount of information they need to protect themselves online, more than half (55 percent) believe that online safety should be self-taught, which could leave more people at risk given rampant ignorance about online security
  • While only one-quarter (24 percent) admit it is unlikely they would be able to recognise a fraudulent email asking for financial information, an experiment in the survey, putting consumers to the test, shows very different results. When asked to identify a real and fake banking email, a third (39 percent) of the UAE consumers were vulnerable to falling for the phishing e-mail. Furthermore, of those who have been phished, a majority (87 percent) experienced a negative outcome such as an account or data compromise
  • As a result of consumer complacency in protecting connected devices, risky online habits and sharing passwords, there has been 420,000 more consumers in the UAE affected by cybercrime in the last year
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