Dubai: The UAE is second in the region and around 15th globally when it comes to online threats and attacks, new research suggests.
More than half of UAE users — 51 per cent — faced financial cyber attacks while 10 per cent reported they lost money in 2014.
Research by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International also found almost a quarter of users had their devices lost or stolen last year.
In the same period, 2,000 women were watched via webcams using the BlackShades, a malicious hacker tool used to take control of computers remotely.
The study, discussed on Wednesday during a Kaspersky Lab conference, added that cyber bullying of children seemed to be high in the country.
In 29 per cent of the cases, the “abuse spilled over from the internet into real life”. Also, almost half of parents – 48 per cent – had to intervene to stop the abuse. And in 44 per cent of the cases, the “child was so badly bullied that it took a long time to recover”.
Mohammad Hasbini, Senior Security Researcher, Kaspersky Lab, said the UAE was targeted intensely because of its high internet penetration and access. However, only a minority of users take safeguards against cyber threats or bullying, he added.
Only 20 per cent on parents, for instance, take measures to protect children online. Hasbini said while it is easy to use the internet, it is “very difficult” to adequately block cyber attacks as it requires specialist intervention such as security software.
“Five year olds know how to use Instagram or Facebook but they don’t know how to protect themselves online,” Hasbini said.
Meanwhile, it has become harder to catch cyber gangs, he added, especially with the proliferation of elusive “dark net” sites that are hosted on an underground internet of sorts, with criminals selling drugs and weapons, and other banned items.
Children are a target group of such sites’ operators, who often solicit them indirectly by sending links to their sites disguised as something else.
Another study, called Children Online, found 68 per cent of users of Kaspersky Lab’s Parental Control technologies encountered “inappropriate or dangerous” content in 2014.
The study suggested that more than half of young users in the UAE “encountered” adult content, over 22 per cent “landed on” gambling websites, and every sixth user “stumbled across” sites featuring weapons.
“These are issues and concerns we can’t turn a blind eye to. Before the internet, we thought at least the children are safe when they are at home. But now with [connected] devices in their hands, they are exposed to an entire world of dangers from their room,” said Samineh Shaheem, a child psychologist, during the conference.
Shaheem is also an anti-bullying campaigner who started the Bolt Down on Bullying initiative in 2010.
She warned parents must take cyber bullying seriously as “the damage can last a lifetime… It’s not just children’s arguments online.”