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UAE hit hard by increasing phishing

1145 attacks on banks seen in 2010, 420 until March 2011

UAE hit hard by increasing phishing
There were 1145 phishing attacks on banks in the UAE in 2010 and there have been 420 attacks between January and March 2011.

The UAE has experienced the most phishing attacks against banks in the Arab world in 2010, according to statistics from online anti-fraud company, IT Matrix.

Last year, from January to December, IT Matrix detected 1,145 unique phishing attacks, according to Mirza Asrar Baig, CEO of IT Matrix.

Unique attacks mean new attacks from new sources, but do not take into consideration slight variations in the URL.

Bahrain comes in second highest for phishing attacks across the Arab world with 154 incidents.

The 1,145 attacks in the UAE means there were almost four phishing attacks per day on UAE banks last year.

Saudi Arabia, with the highest number of banks and banking consumers in the Arab world was phished 58 times for the whole year in 2010. According to Baig, four years ago, Saudi Arabia was the highest hit country for phishing attacks in the Arab world and three years ago it was also the highest.

Ali Abdallah Al-Qtaibi, head of IT Security at Saudi Holland Bank said that one of the reasons for the massive drop in phishing attacks is that Saudi Arabia has raised awareness of phishing and is now seen as a hard target for phishers who have moved on to countries that are easier to scam.

"There are huge campaigns going on in Saudi over the last few years about social engineering, about phishing. The campaigns were through ATMs, call centres, newspapers, so there was a raise in awareness. The second thing is regulation from banks. There is a lot of regulations that have been given to banks that mandate how a customer can do his banking authentication etc, mandates are so strict that banks must follow," he said.

Ihab Shraim, chief security officer and VP of anti-fraud engineering for online fraud combatant company, MarkMonitor also says that the anti-phishing solutions that are being used in the UAE are not very strong.

Looking at the IT Matrix statistics heading into 2011, from January to March 2011, the UAE has experienced 420 attacks in total, with 117 in January, 147 in February and 156 in March. Second highest on the list for these three months was Bahrain with 14 attacks; five in January, four in February and five in March and third on the list is Saudi Arabia, which has had seven attacks up until March.

"I can predict now that there will be at least 2,500 to 3,500 unique attacks on banks by the end of the year. It will most probably cross 3,000," said Baig.

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