UAE: 3.4 million phishing attacks detected in second quarter of year

Attacks related to data loss threats, scams or social engineering have increased 230 per cent, say experts



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Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Sat 6 Aug 2022, 6:10 PM

Last updated: Sat 6 Aug 2022, 10:38 PM

Phishing and scam activities have hit the roof in UAE with a 230 per cent increase in the number of detections during the second quarter of 2022.

Cyber security experts' Kaspersky analysis has revealed that attacks related to data loss threats, phishing and scam or social engineering, have increased significantly in the second quarter of 2022 at 230 per cent in comparison with the previous quarter in the UAE.

Moreover, the company’s security solutions detected a whopping 3,481,419 phishing attacks in the UAE in Q2.

Mikhail Sytnik, a security expert at Kaspersky said, “According to Kaspersky data, most of the Middle East countries saw a staggering increase in attacks related to data loss threats by 159 per cent in the second quarter of 2022 with 15,012,880 phishing scam detections.”

The highest targeted country was Saudi Arabia with 5,808,946 phishing attacks, a growth of 168 per cent.

Higher risks during vacations

Sytnik said, “In particular, while vacation season is high, scammers are trying to lure travellers who are looking for interesting places to go, cheap places to stay and reasonably priced flights.”

Cyber security researchers have observed intensified scamming activities, with numerous phishing pages distributed under the guise of airline and booking services. The number of attempts to open phishing pages related to booking and airline services in the first half of 2022 was 4,311 in the META region.

“Planning a vacation is not easy. People can spend weeks, even months, looking for the perfect place to stay and the tickets to get them there. Fraudsters use this to lure users that have grown tired of searching for great deals,” he said.

“After two years of flight restrictions imposed by the pandemic, travelling is back. But so are travel scams – with intensified scamming activity targeting users through fake booking and rental services. Such attacks are totally preventable, which is why we urge users to be sceptical about overly generous offers. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Sytnik stated.

What is social engineering?

Sytnik said social engineering, sometimes called ‘human hacking’ scams, is used to lure unwary users to the site and trick them into entering personal information.

“The latter often includes financial credentials such as bank account passwords or payment card details, or login details for social media accounts,” he said.

In the wrong hands, this opens doors to various malicious operations, such as money being stolen or corporate networks being compromised.

“Phishing is a strong attack method because it is done at a large scale. By sending massive waves of emails under the name of legitimate institutions or promoting fake pages, malicious users increase their chances of success in their hunt for innocent people’s credentials,” Sytnik added.

Phishers deploy a variety of tricks to bypass e-mail blocking and lure as many users as possible to their fraudulent sites. “A common technique is HTML attachments with partially or fully obfuscated code. HTML files allow attackers to use scripts, obfuscate malicious content to make it harder to detect, and send phishing pages as attachments instead of links,” he explained.

How to keep yourself protected?

  • Carefully look at the address bar before entering any sensitive information, such as your login details and password. If something is wrong with the URL (i.e. spelling, it doesn’t look like the original or it uses some special symbols instead of letters) don’t enter anything on the site. If in doubt, check the certificate of the site by clicking on the lock icon to the left of the URL.
  • Not clicking on links that come from unknown sources (either through e-mails, messaging apps or social networks).
  • Visiting the business’ official website if you see a giveaway offered in e-mail or on social media by a travel company or an airline to confirm the giveaway exists. You should also carefully check the links the giveaway ad leads you to.

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