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Identity theft attacks continue to increase

Online and IT-related identity theft has risen dramatically in the last few years, according to a white paper from security software firm McAfee.

Phishing - the act of sending an e-mail to a user disguised to be from a legitimate enterprise - is a particular problem, increasing 100-fold between January 2004 and May 2006, the report claims.

"Phishing is definitely on the increase and this is one trend we're seeing more and more in the Middle East," Patrick Hayati, McAfee Middle East regional director, told IT Weekly, adding that there had also been an increase in Arabic phishing messages in the region.

McAfee found more sophisticated theft techniques such as keyloggers, are also becoming more prevalent.

The report's findings suggest that the number of keyloggers - people that monitor computer keyboard keystrokes to steal online usernames and passwords - has risen 250% between January 2004 and May 2006.

"The increase in identity theft is exponential not only in the Middle East, but all over the world because it is so cheap to produce. You need one person to click a link to make money, it doesn't take that much to get return on investment," he said.

Identity theft stats:

• Phishing rose 100-fold between 2004 and 2006

• Keylogging increased by 250% during same period

• Arabic phishing in the region also went up