Dubai: How scammers hacked my email account with a single link

Dubai Police have issued repeated reminders cautioning residents about cyberattacks

by

SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Wed 26 Jul 2023, 3:02 PM

Last updated: Thu 27 Jul 2023, 1:50 PM

It was July 8: just another work day — except that it wasn't to be. I was trying to send a work email but little did I know that I had fallen victim to a hacking attack.

I opened my Outlook account and typed in my password but was unable to log in. Despite several attempts, the results were the same. That was when it dawned on me that my account may have been hacked. As it turned out, it was an elaborate hack — one that targeted not only myself, but my colleagues and thousands of contacts in my address book as well.


One fraudulent link

Desperately trying to understand how this could have happened, I realised it was probably because of a link I had clicked on from an email I received on July 5. I was flying out on a work trip that day and was busy packing my belongings. My phone pinged with what looked like an email from work. The subject line indicated it was important. Half distracted with trying to sort out my luggage, I clicked on a link in the email. The link failed to load and I quickly closed the application on my phone, but it was too late.

Alarming events began to unfold the next day as a colleague reached out to inquire about an email she received from me. Realising the situation, I immediately warned her not to open the email, suspecting that their account may have been compromised too.


Upon investigation by my company's IT department, it was discovered that my email account had indeed been hacked by scammers. And, using my account, the hackers had sent out more than 2,500 fraudulent emails to my contacts, attempting to deceive and potentially scam them in the same way.

Dubai Police urge caution

This is no solitary incident. In fact, many such cases are on the rise, according to Dubai Police, who have issued repeated reminders cautioning residents about cyberattacks. What's more, the authority said fraudsters are even attempting to con people by masquerading as Dubai Police.

Urging people to be extra vigilant about phishing emails, Dubai Police said: “Scammers are using deceitful tactics, urging recipients to click on a link to pay fines and service fees. We urge community members to exercise caution and stay vigilant, as well as to verify the authenticity of any email claiming to be from Dubai Police to avoid falling victim to such fraudulent practices.”

Stark reminder

Due to the massive volume of suspicious emails, my company's IT department immediately blocked my email account to prevent further damage. The team worked for nearly four days to resolve the situation and restore my email account to normal functionality. Throughout the ordeal, I had to depend on WhatsApp and my personal email for any professional communication, which meant that, many times, I couldn’t reach out to important contacts or receive their responses.

Do not open links from unknown sources, the engineers told me — a tale of precaution in today's increasingly connected world. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of cybersecurity awareness and caution while using email and digital platforms.

What to do if you receive a suspicious email

  • Report it immediately
  • Avoid clicking on links
  • Avoid downloading attachments from unverified sources

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