Cyber criminals prowling the online world have plundered almost Dh4 billion from victims in the UAE in the last year according to security experts.
More than half the adult population fell victim to cybercrime in 2017, with the latest Norton Cyber Security Insights Report claiming each lost an average of Dh669.
The rise of connected in-home devices and wearable smart technology have helped contribute to the figures, with victims of online crime losing about six working days dealing with the fallout and attempting to recover the stolen information.
The report found criminals were twice as likely to target those with a connected home device, whilst owners of internet-connected gaming consoles and streaming devices were also more vulnerable.
Common blind spots that are leaving people exposed include using the same online password across several accounts and saving passwords on to a file within a device used to surf the web.
Security experts who compiled the report said 45 per cent of online crime victims in the UAE believed they were capable of securing their online data and a third said they were at low risk from cyber criminals.
Although tech savvy, younger people were more likely to be exposed, the report said, with one in five millennials admitting to not having protective measures in place for at least one device.
The actions of consumers are revealing a dangerous disconnect, said Tamim Taufiq, head of Norton Middle East.
“Despite a steady stream of cybercrime sprees reported in the media, too many people appear to feel invincible and skip taking even basic precautions to protect themselves,” he said.
“This disconnect highlights the need for consumer digital safety and the urgency for consumers to get back to basics when it comes to doing their part to prevent cybercrime.”
For survey respondents who said they had been victims of online crime in the last 12 months, Norton asked them to specify the financial loss related to the crime.
The cost of cybercrime was calculated by the total cost in US dollars multiplied by 1000, and then the online population in each country.
Ransomware is a common curse of the online consumer, with many victims in the UAE struggling to retain their digital life, despite paying up to criminals.
More than one in 10 UAE consumers (13 per cent) experienced ransomware last year, and for those who fell victim it has been a costly affair.
Those experiencing ransomware reported losing an average of 89 hours dealing with the aftermath, and nearly one in five (18 per cent) paid the ransom and got nothing in return.
With half of UAE consumers (49 per cent) admitting they never backup all their devices and one in 13 admitting they never implement software updates, a significant number are at risk of losing their digital property for good.
“Paying the ransom may seem like a natural response to get your personal files back,” said Mr Taufiq.
“However, handing the hackers money simply continues to fund their efforts with no guarantee that you’ll personally be able to regain access to your digital life.
“In the case of ransomware, crime pays and we can all take some simple steps to thwart their efforts.”
Of those who experienced an online attack last year, 53 per cent had a device infected by malware, whilst 44 per cent had their Wi-Fi network broken into.
A data breach was felt by 43 per cent of cybercrime victims and 39 per cent said they had fallen prey to a phishing scam and passed on sensitive personal or financial information by responding to a bogus email.
One in three said they had been conned into buying fake goods online and 29 per cent said they had payment information stolen from their phones. A further 24 per cent of victims said they had fallen for technical support scams.
A lack of understanding of how to stay safe online is not a problem exclusive to the UAE, said Matthew Cochran, chairman of the Defence Services Marketing Council, a company working with international industries of defence, space and security.
"This is a global problem impacting on everyone, and is not specific to the UAE,” he said.
"To protect yourself, don’t use the same online password across your accounts, or save them on a computer's browser."
The definition of cybercrime continues to evolve, as avenues open up that allow cybercriminals to target consumers in new ways.
Data for the 2017 report was collected by researchers at Reputation Leaders between October 5 and 24.
“The UAE government has put into place 21st century protections so those of us that live here are at a low risk of becoming a cybercrime victim,” Mr Cochran said.
“Based on my 20 years of experience with big data, encryption and cyber security, institutions in the US and Europe under report their own cyber security for simple insurance and brand protection reasons, but they are attacked 10 times as often as those in the UAE."