Saudi Arabia ‘a prime target for hackers,’ cyber experts warn

Saudi Arabia ‘a prime target for hackers,’ cyber experts warn
The seventh Middle East and North Africa Information Security Conference takes place in the Saudi capital on Monday and Tuesday. AFP
Updated 08 September 2019

Saudi Arabia ‘a prime target for hackers,’ cyber experts warn

Saudi Arabia ‘a prime target for hackers,’ cyber experts warn
  • State-sponsored hackers had previously mounted attacks on Kingdom's critical infrastructure

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s size, wealth, and geopolitical prominence make it a prime target for cyberattackers, experts have warned on the eve of a high-profile cybersecurity conference that begins in Riyadh on Monday.

“As the world gets more and more interconnected and we become increasingly dependent on technology, the threat landscape is broadening and creating more opportunities for attackers,” said Mark Leveratt, cybersecurity adviser to the Defense Services Marketing Council in Abu Dhabi.

“This is leaving individuals, organizations, governments and nations increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.”


ALSO READ: Counting the cost of Middle East cyberattacks


Muhammad Khurram Khan, founder and chief executive of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research in Washington, said state-sponsored hackers had already launched elaborately planned cyberattacks against the Kingdom’s critical infrastructure and government departments.

“They are also targeting the general public and local organizations, including hospitals, universities and SMEs, for financial gain by performing ransomware attacks, which have increased by almost 400 percent over previous years,” he said. Khan said cybercrime legislation should be an integral part of the national cybersecurity strategy of every country.

“Fortunately, Saudi Arabia has developed an anti-cybercrime law that aims to secure the safe exchange of data, protect the rights of users and the internet, and defend the public interest, morals and privacy,” he said.

The seventh Middle East and North Africa Information Security Conference takes place in the Saudi capital on Monday and Tuesday.

 


Fraudsters up their game, posing as bank officials on the phone in Saudi Arabia

Fraudsters up their game, posing as bank officials on the phone in Saudi Arabia
Vishing that occurs during a telephone call aims to provoke fear in the victim so that customers will be more susceptible to giving out personal, financial, or security details. (shutterstock)
Updated 52 min 16 sec ago

Fraudsters up their game, posing as bank officials on the phone in Saudi Arabia

Fraudsters up their game, posing as bank officials on the phone in Saudi Arabia
  • The Saudi Central Bank has warned bank customers, both citizens and expatriates, not to fall victim to financial frauds being perpetrated by scammers

JEDDAH: Fraudsters have developed a new scam, contacting residents in Saudi Arabia and pretending to be bank staffers requesting customer details.
A number of Arab News staff have received such calls in recent weeks. One caller spoke Urdu while two other callers posing as senior officials from the headquarters of the bank spoke in English and Arabic with a local accent.
They used phone numbers that appeared to be local numbers but upon calling back, the lines failed to connect.
The racketeers collect phone numbers of customers and ring them up, saying that their bank account or ATM card requires immediate updating. The scammers use the information provided to gain access to their bank accounts.
Speaking to Arab News, Talat Zaki Hafiz, secretary-general of the Media and Banking Awareness Committee of Saudi banks, said: “Saudi banks represented by the Media and Banking Awareness Committee have repeatedly warned bank customers not to react to stray phone calls of any kind coming from unknown sources that ask to update their banking record or personal information.” He further confirmed that banks do not request such information through phone calls or SMS messages.
Mohammed Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at the King Saud University in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Phishing, an online scam which targets users through emails where individuals are encouraged to click on a link that takes them to fraudulent sites, was troubling people. Now it’s a different kind of scam known as ‘vishing,’ over-the-phone phishing, where scammers persuade users to share their banking information by impersonating a bank official.”

HIGHLIGHT

The racketeers collect phone numbers of customers and ring them up, saying that their bank account or ATM card requires immediate updating. The scammers use the information provided to gain access to their bank accounts.

Vishing that occurs during a telephone call aims to provoke fear in the victim so that customers will be more susceptible to giving out personal, financial, or security details.
Sharing his experience Zafar Hasan, an e-learning consultant in Riyadh, said: “I received a call from someone on an unknown mobile number who introduced himself as a bank employee and told me that my ATM card was going to be blocked. It required an immediate update so I should give my Iqama number (residence permit number) and sixteen-digit ATM card number. I felt something was fishy, so I told him that I would go personally to the bank to update the card.”
The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) has warned bank customers, both citizens and expatriates, not to fall victim to financial frauds being perpetrated by scammers.
SAMA called on bank customers to take information only from the official channels of the bodies regulating the Kingdom’s financial and investment sectors and inform the competent security authorities about such fraudulent attempts.