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Mideast increasingly at risk from cyber-crime ! - 5/31/2005 6:06:14 AM   

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Almost halfway through 2005 and it already seems as though this year will far surpass 2004 as the worst year on record for global cyber-crime. Perhaps more disturbingly, despite having racked up impressive numbers last year - online viruses grew by more than 50 percent and identity theft attempts rose by more than 30 percent - recent reports of widespread breaches at some of the biggest U.S. corporations have finally seemed to offer compelling proof that even the most sophisticated networks are vulnerable to corruption, eavesdropping and outright larceny.

In the Middle East, where experts say awareness of cyber-crimes as well as laws punishing such acts are lacking, the disclosure last week of a major breach of Internet routing equipment widely used across the world has also served to compound concerns that the region's businesses and consumers may be more vulnerable to cyber-crime than is generally acknowledged.

"There is a lack of awareness especially among some of the large enterprises in the region," explained Hussam Kayyal, General Manager Levant for Internet powerhouse Cisco Systems.

"And there is risk because the expenditure that we see on security devices in Lebanon, as one example, is not high. I have also not seen network audits or security audits as a popular service which means that customers are not aware of potential threats."

Cisco Systems recently found itself at the center of one of the largest international cyber crime investigations after engineers discovered sensitive coding for its Internet routing equipment had been stolen earlier last year.

Cisco Systems provides the largest share of the infrastructure upon which Internet traffic is directed.

According to the New York Times, the FBI found that the break-in at Cisco Systems was just the tip of a much larger operation, apparently based in Europe, in which thousands of computer systems were breached, including those serving the U.S. military, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as well as prominent research laboratories.

Although the holes in Cisco's equipment were eventually plugged, the Times said it was still "not clear how much data was taken or destroyed," as a result of that breach as well as the subsequent breaches that followed.

Although statistics on cyber crime in the Middle East are generally hard to come by, according to one recent survey by Symantec, a leading Internet security provider, among countries with a relatively low number of Internet users, five countries from the Middle East region have been classified as among the top 10 countries vulnerable to hackers' attacks.

These countries are Iran, Kuwait, U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Indeed some of these countries have already been the victims of high-profile penetrations.

In one particularly sensational case in 2003, $5 billion was stolen by hackers from ATMs in the U.A.E. during a prolonged operation.

Full story...

Source : MENAFN
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