Internet users, whether companies, government and home-based, in Qatar and in the Middle East have been warned to stay protected against cyber criminals who are increasingly targeting personal information to steal identities and make profits.
The warning aired by Mark Chaban, (pictured) Commercial Market Strategy Group Director of Microsoft Middle East and Africa, came on the heels of reports that suspected cyber spies from mainland China have hacked into computer networks in over 100 countries stealing classified information from governments and private institutions.
“Widely publicised security and data breaches and increasing reports of identity theft are causing growing concern among consumers, business leaders, government policymakers and privacy advocates,” Chaban said in an article sent exclusively
to The Peninsula. Computer virus threats in the Middle East is increasing as Microsoft reported that its security products detected malware and potential unwanted software on 42.6 more computers in the Gulf Cooperating Council states in 2008 than in 2007.
According to the Microsoft report, Qatar ranked fourth with 16.1 percent of computers infected with malware and other unwanted software and virus families in 2008. Bahrain was first with 29.2 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia with 22.3 percent and UAE with 17. 3 percent. Kuwait had 15.9 percent while Oman had 15.3 percent.
The warning to Internet users in Qatar to be more protected against viruses is important since Qtel is set to upgrade broadband connections to its subscribers on April 1. Adel Al Mutawa, Executive Director, Group Communications, said speed, reliability and penetration are all set to improve as a result of the upgrade.
In related development, a study made by think-tanks from SecDev Group and University of Toronto’s Munk Center for International Studies, revealed that cyber-espionage network compromised 1,295 infected computers in 103 countries. Of the infected computers, 30 percent are considered high-value because these affected the work of ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organisations, news media and NGOs, according to a study titled “Tracking Ghostnet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.”
Chaban said the growing concerns about growing computer virus threats have led to calls for more effective policies, processes and technologies to protect and manage personal information. “ We recommend a multi-faceted approach to data protection that involves a combination of policy, people, processes and technology and have published a white paper to help companies deal with this problem,” Chaban said.
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