Electronic crime popularly known as cyber crime or e-crime is an illicit activity conducted online using computers and other electronic devices that have internet access. Following the advent in technology, there has been an upsurge in cyber crimes ranging from dissemination of destructive viruses, debuting a denial-of-service attack which blocks users from their computers, copyright breaches, frauds, and spreading objectionable material such as child pornography amongst a seas of many other crimes.
As many people are getting connected to internet so is the number of cyber crimes rising exponentially to a level of gaining global traction in multilateral forums as a threat to state security. With over 1.5 million cyber attacks annually, e-crime has become a threat to anyone online. This basically means that there are over 4000 cyber crimes each day, 170 attacks per hour, and nearly three attacks every minute. IBM estimates that these crimes are expected to skyrocket hence widening the global cyber security from $63.7 in 2011 to about $ 120.1 billion in 2017. The common types of e-crimes include viruses, worms, malware and Trojans (50%), criminal insiders (33%), theft of data bearing devices (28%), SQL injection (28%), phishing (22%), web-based attacks (17%), social engineering (17%), and others (11%).
Cyber crime in the Middle East
Already infamous for insecurities such as terrorism, civil unrest, inter-religious wars, and political upheavals; cyber crimes has succeeded in creating a wobbly environment in this region, to an extent some experts are now referring to the region as a hotbed of cyber crimes. According to a report by Cisco Systems, Inc., a multinational IT company, alongside the 30 global largest Fortune 500 companies, the oil and gas companies in the Middle East have become frequent targets of malware attacks. The rise in cyber crimes in this region is attributed to the bulging numbers of people with smart devices and internet connectivity, the general state of lawlessness which creates a volatile environment for all forms of insecurities to thrive, and advancement in technological innovation in the region enabling fraudsters to invent new forms of crimes.
It is widely believed that the cyber attacks in the Middle East is a combination of hacktivism which is a way of protesting in order to bolster political ends and state sponsored attacks by hacking. These forms of cyber crime have spiraled to other regions in the world. According to a report by Californian security firm: Cylance, Iranian hackers have been identified as the root source of well coordinated attacks against over 50 state and corporate targets that manage vital energy, infrastructure and medical services in 16 countries. The Iranian hackers’ string of attacks is known as Operation Cleaver and has been attacking airlines and ports in South Korea, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia by gaining remote access to the security control systems of these places.
The region has proactively committed to efforts towards combating cyber crime with spate of dedicated events and investments geared towards generating high level panel discussions on how to address this issue. In December 2014, the GCC states convened the Cyber Defense and Network Security UAE (CDANS) which aimed at inclusion of cyber forensics in government cyber security. During this same period, Qatar hosted the Middle East Cyber Security Summit 2014, while Bahrain convened a forum in October 2014 that sought to address the growing concerns about e-crimes. The states in these regions have also contributed significantly to global discussions through researches and funding.
E-crimes in UAE
UAE has also become victim to cyber crimes which have had a tangible negative effect on its economy. In 2015, for instance, a staggering DHs 4.9 billion was used in recovering the effects of e-crimes. According to Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, UAE citizens lost close to a day and half on average (30 hours) following up with the repercussion of online crime. The top most prevalent online crimes in UAE are phishing, email spam and loss of credit card details.
In countering the escalation in cyber attacks, the UAE government updated its existing cyber crime laws to address the loopholes and substantiated many seemingly petty offences as punishable acts if conducted electronically. In particular, UAE has criminalized disclosure of certain electronically stored information such as credit card and bank details.
In a nutshell, cyber crime has embattled the security of many countries in the 21st century following the technological advancement. The cost of curbing cyber crime has also increased significantly compelling countries to seek concerted efforts in a bid to curb it and protect its citizens.