GCC's home users ignore Internet threats

Software specialist Symantec discovers slack security practices among Gulf computer users.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  March 20, 2007

92% of internet security threats are targeted at home computer users, according to the findings of security vendor Symantec's 11th global Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR).

However the vendor's regional research suggests that while Middle East users do worry about IT security, this concern has yet to lead to much real preventative action being taken.

"During last November's Gitex show in Dubai we conducted a vox-pop survey of visitors," stated Symantec's regional director, Kevin Isaac. "From interviewing several hundred people we found that 57% of them had zero threat protection on their home computers."

Isaac went on to offer a few tips that home users should follow to ward off internet-borne threats such as Trojans and bot attacks.

"Firstly, users must put a full internet security solution on their machine, as just running an anti-virus program will no longer cut it," Isaac explained.

"Secondly, they should never open e-mail attachments from unknown senders, and never download pirate software.

"Thirdly, a more general point -exercise common sense. Don't click OK for instance when installing a program, until you've read what you are agreeing to."

On the topic of internet banking, which several financial institutions such as Emirates Bank and HSBC offer in the UAE, Isaac proffered an additional piece of advice.

"When internet banking, do exercise caution in terms of which machine you log on from," he stated. "If you have more than one system, use one for fun and let your kids use that too, but keep one for internet banking, as that way you'll know what programs are on it."

Symantec's latest bi-annual threat report identified that the UAE has the highest country ranking of any in the region when it comes to internet security threats. The country was ranked the 44th most popular home for bot infected computers, from a list of 180 countries in total.

The highly developed, tech-savvy UAE also currently leads the list of Middle East countries for hosting threat attacks and phishing scams, sourcing spam e-mail and being targeted by denial of service (DoS) attacks.

The most surprising regional statistic from the 11th ISTR however is Bahrain's relatively high showing in two categories.

Symantec's analysts discovered that internet users in the small island Kingdom receive the greatest proportion of spam as a percentage of all e-mail, plus Bahrain was also ranked second for hosting bot infected computers, behind the UAE but ahead of much more heavily populated countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Referring to the Kingdom, Isaac predicted that Saudi Arabia's internet security issues will grow over the next 12 months, in line with the increasing penetration of fast broadband internet in the Kingdom.

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