Cyber crime will only get worse in time

With the rise of smartphones and social media, online protection is a pressing need

Cyber crime is a national and international threat. Philip Cheung / The National
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Chances are that you or someone you know has been the victim of a cyber crime. Almost certainly, you have received a suspicious email and perhaps you have even opened one by accident. These schemes are as old as the internet itself but with the rise of social media and the incredible penetration of smartphones, cyber crime has become a national and international challenge.

As The National reported yesterday, two out of five UAE residents have been the victim of cyber crimes. This is little wonder given the amount of time we collectively spend online. According to du, close to half of 1,000 people surveyed in a recent poll spent more than two hours a day on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. As cyber criminals become increasingly savvy and social media platforms find new ways to steal our attention, the number of victims will rise in the years ahead.

For the individual, there are several steps that can be taken to protect online activity, including regularly changing passwords, enabling two-factor authentication where available and approaching the internet with a generally sceptical eye. By taking these simple precautions, individuals are not only protecting themselves but also fulfilling an important civic duty.

As we have seen over the past year, cyber crime is a challenge for the international community as a whole. Russian hackers have even been accused of attempting to manipulate the United States presidential election by breaking into email servers. Often, advanced hackers gain access to sensitive networks by hacking individual email or social media accounts. Therefore, if you or anyone you know has access to important networks, you can easily become the weakest link for a hacker to exploit.

That is one way cyber crime extends far beyond a simple everyday nuisance. As we become more interconnected, crime on the internet will come to define national and international conflict. Awareness campaigns that start with young people learning how to use the internet must convey the breadth of this new reality.

The internet – and especially social media – is an extraordinarily powerful tools that connect all aspects of our lives from the electricity grid to our personal communications. Extra caution and vigilance are the best line of defence against malicious activity. The safer we are in our personal internet use, the better for the health of the country and the world.