Battle against cybercrime

Online crime has hit a record high, but new online tools can help deter cyber-criminals.

UAE residents are more aware of internet threats.
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Criminal activity is rampant in cyberspace.

Last year, more than 286 million distinct threats were discovered on the web by the online security company Symantec - more than the company says it had unearthed over the past decade.

That means there is an average of nine new online threats a second.

"It is a big trend," says Bulent Teksoz, the cyber security strategist for the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) at Symantec. "The Middle East is part of the trend."

Six per cent of the world's spam now originates from the Middle East, up from 5 per cent in 2009. But while residents of the UAE are becoming more aware of internet threats such as bogus e-mails, citizens from countries including Saudi Arabia are increasingly falling victim to attacks.

Businesses in the region may also be at risk. Last year, cyber criminals targeted a number of publicly traded, multinational corporations, as well as small businesses around the world to steal intellectual property or cause damage.

Often they researched a key individual within a company then employed tailored attacks to gain entry into that person's networks.

Experts anticipate the problems will only get worse as more business professionals and users buy gadgets that can connect to the web, including smartphones and tablet computers.

It may not come as any surprise that online security companies recommend antivirus and protection software to guard against web-based threats. After all, fear - or "awareness" as some call it - is how these companies make money.

But some companies have started offering free online tools that businesses and private users can access.

Norton recently launched a Cybercrime Index, which looks like a stock exchange chart but highlights daily threats.

"It gives you a rating of the cybercrime on that particular day and how likely [it is] you could be a victim," says Tamim Taufiq, the head of consumer sales in Mena for Symantec, which oversees Norton's products.