Dubai/ Abu Dhabi/ Fujairah: The ease of conducting transactions and the availability of various services at the click of a mouse as opposed to standing in long queues have contributed to the popularity of online services but doubts about their safety still persist.

As government and private companies make more services accessible online, are residents only too eager to use them or are they wary of the consequences?

A recent Gulf News poll found that 44 per cent of respondents preferred using the internet route for banking services, 12 per cent logged on for paying utility bills, and another 12 per cent used it for making travel arrangements. Five per cent of respondents said they went online to pay traffic fines, four per cent used it for government services, and two per cent for shopping.

The remaining 21 per cent of those surveyed were not very enthusiastic about online services. City Talk asked residents about online services and the level of protection they need from viruses and hackers.

Chris Gregory, 54, construction manager from UK, said: "I always use online services to make my travel arrangements, mostly because it is easy and convenient. I am happy with the services and do not have any problem with using my credit cards online. So far it seems to be okay."

Mohsin Ali, 19, from Pakistan, said: "I use online services most of the time for work related to the bank, but I do not depend on them too much because the internet connection is very slow. Sometimes I get worried about hackers, especially when I get e-mails saying that I won a cash prize and that I have to provide my contact details to claim the gift."

Maria Al Touq, 26, distribution account manager from Bahrain, said: "I use the internet around once a month to buy books and bonds. I have an online credit card that is limited, so if anybody wants to use the card, they will not find a lot of money. I have heard many stories about hackers and that is why I use a limited credit card in the first place, because I am scared that someone can get hold of my credit card details."

Doha Al Wazany, Palestinian public relations account manager, uses the internet frequently but would want to see better safeguards. "Sometimes there are certain websites that I'm afraid to enter or download from because I don't want a virus on my computer. A few days ago I had my internet connection switched on for 24-hours and to my surprise the next day my computer wouldn't work. I later found it was a virus attack even though I have one of the best anti-virus programmes downloaded on my personal computer. If such protection is not enough, what is?"

Zubair Ahmad, 52, transport supervisor from Pakistan, said: "I am not a frequent user, and I only use the internet to find out something specific at work. For instance, if I want to see the status of any of the vehicles in our company, or if there is a specific fine or something of that sort. If a person knows how to access online services safely and has the necessary virus-protection programmes, there should be no problem in keeping your computer protected."

Gaurav Bhatnagar, 31, account manager from India, said: "I use airline reservation websites and access my online banking website without any problems because I know they are secured, even though recently there was this ATM problem where all the banks were asking us to change our pin code numbers. That incident did startle me and made me feel like nothing is 100-per cent secure anymore. There are top-notch hackers that know exactly what they are doing and you always have to keep your guard up."

Ahmad Abdul Qadir, an IT technician from Sudan, 28, said: "I often log on to websites with services but I try to avoid giving personal information because I don't trust any website with them. There are plenty of services I give up using because of the security issue. I think unless there is a grave need, people should think carefully before intrusting their personal and financial details to a website."

Hazim Ahmad Tawfiq, an Egyptian accountant, 31, said: "I do not use services which require giving personal or financial information and I do not advice anyone to do the same unless it is unavoidable. There are some websites which have good security but- in truth- even the largest and best protected sites can, and have, been breached by hackers.

"Many people just don't have the confidence to use such services because of the security issue and it will take time before that changes."

Do you use online services for payments? Do you feel that they are safe? Would you prefer it over traditional methods of payment?

Your comments

i have little confidence when i logon to my online banking,i once have tried that even though the page has expired,i just clicked the back button, then i continued browsing my online account again.
James B.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: May 03, 2009, 11:13

Surely online services are excellent for making payments. I use it to pay my utility bills, traffic fines and for banking services. It is time saving and so far I have never had any problem with online services. I have heard of sites being hacked, but luckily I haven't faced trouble due to this and so feel that the service is quite safe. Traditional methods of payments are fine provided we have time on our hands. Working people find it difficult to take time off for making payments in the traditional method. It is much easier on the net and can be done at any time from the luxury of one's home. Once in a while it is fine, but for regular payments online services are best. After all time is money and saving time surely will save money too. Finally, it is a matter of choice.
Naina Nair
Posted: May 03, 2009, 10:01

I am using online service till date and have no problem with it. But I had a little fear in mind because every now and then i hear of credit card frauds, etc. but I had to use it as i dont have a car and you all know taxis are very costly and it wastes a lot of itme also.
Posted: May 03, 2009, 09:48