Dubai: The financial cost of cybercrime to the UAE has reached $1.4 (Dh5.14) billion to date this year, an increase of 4.9 per cent as hackers take advantage of consumer complacency, said an industry expert.

Globally, the financial cost decreased by 16 per cent to $125.9 billion this year.

Tamim Taufiq, head of Norton Middle East, told Gulf News that the rise in the financial cost in the UAE is due to multiple reasons. The country has become the ideal target for hackers due to the high penetration rates of smartphones (over 83 per cent), adoption of new technologies, and the high profile this country has internationally.

He said that 2.53 million consumers were affected by cybercrime in the UAE this year compared to two million last year, an average of 31.5 hours per victim dealing with the consequences compared to 30 hours last year.

Globally, 689.4 million consumers were affected and an average of 19.7 hours per victim to deal with the consequences.

Consumers around the world lost an average of 21 hours (for perspective that’s the entire next season of Arrested Development) over the past year dealing with the fallout from online crime, and nearly $358 on average per person, enough for a year of home security monitoring

Taufiq said that the UAE consumers are the most likely to continue engaging in risky online behaviour, leaving themselves vulnerable to further attacks.

According to Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, nearly seven out of 10 people 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.

“Consumer complacency and risky online behaviours are helping hackers reap rewards from their efforts as they continue to hone their craft and adapt scams. Millennials are the most commonly affected by the crime, with 53 per cent having experienced it within the past year,” he said.

“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,” he said.

While consumers remain complacent, he said that 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.

The report said that 49 per cent indicate that it is now harder to stay safe and secure in the online world than in the real, physical world while 59 per cent said they believe entering financial information online when connected to public WiFi is riskier than reading their credit or debit card number aloud in a public place.

Experiencing cybercrime is a potential consequence of living in a connected world, but he said that 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 per cent) cannot detect a phishing attack, and another nine per cent have to guess between a real message and a phishing email, meaning nearly four in 10 are vulnerable,” he said.

When asked to identify a real and fake banking email, he said that a third (39 per cent) of the UAE consumers was vulnerable to falling for the phishing e-mail. Moreover, those who have been phished, a majority (87 per cent) experienced a negative outcome such as an account or data compromise.