USERS transacting on the Internet and automated teller machines (ATMs) must use precautionary measures as hackers have turned their sights to the “money-loaded” Gulf region, a visiting cyber-criminologist has said.
“Today, hackers are targeting the growing economies and countries with money but lax cyber crime laws,” Rama K Subramaniam, who runs the cyber-crime management firm, Valient Technologies, said.
Citing figures from the FBI’s 2007 Internet Crime Report, the veteran security expert said that money loss of the total referred complaints in the report was at an all-time high at $239mn. The 2006 figure was that of $198mn.
“The problem with cyber crime is also that of tracking and bringing the culprits under the right jurisdiction, as a computer in Qatar could be affected or abused by a hacker sitting somewhere in Russia – where the most number of global hackers have been recorded,” he said.
“But before that, one would be shocked to know that the number of affected people who refuse to report is significant just as well. In a normal situation a victim would seek help immediately. On the Internet, people just don’t do that,” he said.
The FBI’s website only received a total of 206,884 complaints during the 2007 period.
According to Subramaniam, who has worked with companies in all GCC countries, the regional governments are now working on a draft law to counter cyber crimes.
The law is expected to cover everything from auction frauds to credit card frauds, debt elimination to shipping frauds, escrow services fraud to identity theft and Internet extortion, lotteries, Nigerian letter (or 419) scheme and the third-part receiver of funds fraud among others, he noted.
“If you look at the regional pattern in the available data, credit card fraud for instance, will show you that both the users and merchants took minimum precaution. People usually give out their PIN and other information without thinking about it twice,” he felt.
Changing the card’s PIN and password on quarterly basis should be the first safeguard against hackers, the expert advised.
Some of his other suggestions to users who electronically transact were: beware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited e-mails; be suspicious when payment is requested by money transfer before the goods will be delivered; always be wary of inflated claims of product effectiveness; always type in the website address yourself rather than clicking on a link provided and review a copy of your credit report at least once a year.
“And If you ever get a shoddy Internet “opportunity” that appears too good to be true, it probably is,” he added.
Subramaniam, who holds a PhD in criminology from the UK, was in Doha, where his firm has signed a partnership agreement with TALENTresources. The two companies plan to jointly conduct training workshops and seminars, the official said.
By Sarmad Qazi