Antivirus firm: Niche websites aren’t safe

Although cyber crime losses declined by four percent in 2013 from last year, the amount is still over SR2 billion, with new risks appearing from the use of smartphones and tablets, an expert said recently.

Samer Sidani, country manager of Symantec in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that according to the 2013 Norton Report issued by Symantec, 64 percent of working adults in Saudi Arabia use their personal mobile devices for both work and play, introducing new security risks.

He said that Symantec’s predictions for the new year include people taking action to keep their information private. “By outlining our predictions for 2014, Symantec encourages consumers and businesses to take proactive measures to protect their valuable information. It is vital that consumers and enterprises in Saudi Arabia understand cyber threats in the region, and how to protect themselves against sophisticated, targeted attacks,” he said.

“We will also see a resurgence of users adopting aliases and fake names on social networking sites to protect their privacy. Given this, more people will move to new, upstart and niche social networking sites, in an attempt to hang around with their friends in obscurity,” he said.

Sidani said scammers, data collectors and cyber criminals would not ignore any social network, no matter how niche or obscure. “It’s tempting to believe that one can move to a new neighborhood and all one’s old problems will go away. They don’t in real life and they won’t when it comes to social networking. Any new social network that attracts users will also attract scammers and miscreants. If something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is a scam. People should protect themselves by using security best practices no matter where they are on the Internet, or how they are connected to it,” he said.

“We expect dumb things will get smarter in 2014 with millions of devices connected to the Internet, and in many cases running an embedded operating system, which will thus become a magnet for hackers. Security researchers have already demonstrated attacks against smart televisions, medical equipment and security cameras. Major software vendors have figured out how to notify customers and get patches for vulnerabilities to them,” he said.

Sidani said mobile apps pose a particular and new threat. “It is not surprising that with 48 percent of people sleeping with their smartphones, they are lulled into a (false) sense of security. In 2013, we reported on a mobile app that would secure additional likes for one’s postings on Instagram. All one had to do was hand over one’s login and password to some guy in Russia,” he said.

“More than 100,000 people saw nothing wrong with this. We trust our mobile devices and the wonderful apps that run on them to make our lives better. In 2014, the bad guys are going to take advantage of this big time and mobile apps are going to be behind hoaxes, cons and scams of all sorts,” he said.

The Norton Report is one of the world’s largest consumer cyber crime studies, based on self-reported experiences of more than 13,000 adults across 24 countries, aimed at understanding how cyber crime affects consumers, and how the adoption and evolution of new technologies affect their security.