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Cyber crime: MENA is now a prime target

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In today’s world of rising cyber attacks, and growing demands for secure software, it is imperative to eliminate unintentionally revealing information that may be benefi cial to attackers.” (Hewlett Packard Cyber Risk Report 2013)

More than 38 per cent of those in the Middle East who responded to an economic crime survey said they expected their organisations to be victims within the next two years. PAUL WRIGHT, of AccessData Professional Services and Investigations, looks at how companies can cope in the ‘digital world’

The Middle East is fast becoming a prime target of cyber crime, according to AccessData Group, a leader in digital investigations, cyber security and e-discovery solutions, which believes that everyone as a whole has a duty to “raise awareness about this growing concern”.

This warning comes on top of the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2014 highlighting the following dangers as a whole that, it says, could  undermine e-commerce:

  •  Digital disintegration
  • the fact that it is easier to attack than defend
  • the worry that attackers could gain disruptive technology
  • the internet could cease to be a trusted medium for communication or commerce.

Although it is fervently advocated that the private sector should have strategies and policies to deal with IT abuse and cybercrime, the report says “investigative experience shows us that in the main they do not, and there are electronic voids in existence between departments. These gaps need to be identified and filled before the private sector can fulfil what is expected of it”.

For example, says the AccessDate Group, “phishing” and similar offences are being used to get hold of important information from employees of corporate business and personal information belonging to individuals. That information is then used to breach the security of organisations to obtain confidential and sensitive data.

The internet has developed rapidly over recent years. It started life as an experimental network used and controlled by the academic community to share information and promote professional communications. Within this framework self-governance worked well because the community of users shared common goals and norms.

Now that the network has evolved into a public domain, where people of many cultures and dispositions can share access to this common resource, conflicts and abuses have started to occur.

Cyber crime affects most internet users at one time or another, and they have to face the fact that technological developments and innovation of the criminal mind have left them playing catch up.

Today, not everyone who uses the internet has good intentions. In fact, there is a growing amount of information on it about how to commit numerous types of crime; radical extremist groups commonly use it to disseminate doctrine, recruit new members and co-ordinate activities; and the criminal element is now able to communicate with effective impunity using freely available tools and services to mask their identities and render their correspondence unreadable by others.

Despite this, from the investigators perspective, the internet represents an important investigative aid and an unprecedented, cost effective “open source” intelligence-gathering opportunity. Information that could prove very useful in many types of investigations can be accessed with relative ease by an experienced and proficient internet researcher or forensic analyst.

IT enabled abuse is committed across cyber space and does not stop at the border. They can be perpetrated from anywhere in the world and against any computer user. It is recognised that efficient action to combat cybercrime is necessary between both the public and private sectors.

Published in 1965 in the Electronics Magazine, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore wrote that the number of transistors on a chip would double every 24 months. As technology has pushed forward over the past decades, the impact of his words has been astounding. These words, written as an observation, have set the standard for the development of computer chip technology, and as this advances so must investigative techniques and cyber security awareness.

According to the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) Annual Economic Crime Report 2014, the future trend is alarming as more than 38 per cent of its respondents in the Middle East indicated that they expected their organisations to suffer from economic crime over the next 24 months.

AccessData Group, a leader in digital investigations, cyber security and e-discovery solutions, believes that the Middle East is fast becoming a prime target of cyber crime and feels that everyone as a whole has a duty to “raise awareness about this growing concern”.

Its interaction with government, financial, telecom and enterprise organisations in the MENA region has revealed a dire need for “proactive analysis, the creation of cyber crime prevention measures, ‘education – education – education’ of staff and the need for ‘in-house’ abilities to deal with cyber security threats”.

It adds “If we do not in partnerships invest in the skills necessary to police this ever-changing environment, we will have to contend with playing ‘catch-up’ in understanding how new technologies are associated with traditional and some new crimes, which also means we will not be comfortable in the digital world.” n

The arrival of the future

E-commerce can simply be described as doing business electronically. That is, the use of one or more technologies to communicate with trading partners such as customers or suppliers, or to gather information electronically about markets, competitors and business opportunities.

It is also the means of selling goods on the internet, using web pages. This involves much the same processes as selling goods elsewhere, but in digital format. Presentation, placement, display, stocking, selling and payment are all familiar concepts.

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