Online retailers warned to beware of cyber criminals

Online retailers are being urged to tighten their security measures as the holiday season approaches.

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By  Michele Howe Published  December 17, 2006

Online retailers are being urged to tighten their security measures as the holiday season approaches. Although online shopping is a relatively new phenomenon in the Middle East and still not that widespread in comparison to Europe and the US, more and more people in the region are now doing their shopping over the internet, according to global security firm McAfee. “At this time of year, it was common a few years ago for people to spend time on the phone or out at the shops on company time to get their festive presents. However, today the internet has become a part of everyday life for most people, with online shopping increasing rapidly,” explained Patrick Hayati, regional director, McAfee, Middle East. The number of Middle East internet users is expected to double to 50 million people by 2009, according to figures cited by McAfee. This growth has not gone unnoticed by cyber criminals, who use increasingly sophisticated techniques such as spyware, key-loggers and phishing techniques to cull passwords and sensitive information from virtual shoppers. Areas such as the UAE and Qatar where internet penetration is high are particularly vulnerable, Hayati said. “The incidence of phishing is very prevalent in places where internet penetration is high like the UAE, Qatar and some of the other countries around the region. It is less so in countries where internet usage has not picked up as a percentage of population, places like Egypt,” he revealed. There are various measures online retailers can take to reduce online fraud, according to McAfee. Some firms have already started taking precautions against hackers sniffing credit card details in transit, but a substantial number do not adequately protect against the use of cloned or stolen cards, the firm said. Actions such as asking for the card security code and ensuring goods are delivered to the card billing address all help to cut online fraud, McAfee said. “The festive season is when the largest number of potential customers — in this region and globally — go on line to shop for the first time,” said John Rowe, managing director of online retail site Quickdubai.com. “Security has to be a priority for online retailers as it is one of the key factors in encouraging these customers to convert to online shopping.” Quickdubai has increased its security by implementing standard 128-bit SSL encryption technology for secure data transmission, and by using a 3D secure payment system to protect its clients’ credit card details.

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