Fake apps growing threat to personal data, says cybersecurity expert

The premium residency scheme gives expatriates who meet its conditions the right to live, work, and own business and property in the Kingdom without a sponsor. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
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Updated 21 April 2020

Fake apps growing threat to personal data, says cybersecurity expert

  • Saudi residency scheme says no app for registering

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Premium Residency Center (SAPRC) has denied there is an app to register for the scheme, as a cybersecurity professor in the Kingdom warned that fake apps were a growing threat to people’s personal and financial data.

The premium residency scheme gives expatriates who meet its conditions the right to live, work, and own business and property in the Kingdom without a sponsor. 

“SAPRC would like to clarify that we don’t have any application software,” the center tweeted on its official account. “The SAPRC portal is the only platform through which applications would be received. If any applications are launched in the future, we will announce them.”

Fake apps threaten people’s personal and financial data, with developers attempting to sell users’ information to companies or leak their details.

Muhammad Khurram Khan, a cybersecurity professor at King Saud University, said  cyber criminals were opportunistic and developed legitimate-looking websites and fake apps to steal users’ sensitive information, including credit card data and other identifiable personal data.

“To hack users, they usually send phishing emails with a link to the spoofed websites and encourage them to click to browse or entice them to download malicious apps,” he told Arab News.

People should be vigilant when they were online because spoof websites used incorrect web addresses which at first glance appeared credible, he said.

“Fake webpages are not as sleek or well-designed as their targeted original websites. They are trying to impersonate (them) and use low-resolution images and the company’s logo.”

Cyberthreats were evolving in their scale and sophistication, he added, and scammers launched over 1.5 million phishing websites every month that cost billions of dollars in losses. 

Fake mobile apps were a persistent problem and were growing in number due to the large-scale penetration of smartphone users around the globe, he warned.

“If an app is present in Google Play Store and Apple App Store, it doesn’t mean that it is a legitimate app,” Khan said. “Users should do some research before downloading any app and check the app’s download statistics, read reviews of others, and check the developer’s information because if more apps are available from the same developer or company, then it has a higher chance of being legitimate.”

Another way to download an authentic app was to visit the organization’s official website or social media account to find the direct link to the app in the app store.

If an organization’s website did not have any link or information about an official app, it meant that any apps associated with them in the app store were fake and these could swindle users out of their personal and financial information, as well as their contacts and other private data, he said.

The professor advised people to use their common sense before downloading any app on their devices as cyber criminals had plenty of opportunities and ways to exploit users.

Opening attachments from unknown emails would compromise users’ personal data, he explained, and people should block pop-up windows and report suspicious activities or cyber incidents to the Saudi Computer Emergency Response Team.

The premium residency scheme took effect last June, three years after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the program as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan. 

The SAPRC receives applications through saprc.gov.sa. Applicants can upload all the required documents and pay the necessary fees. It also provides an introduction to the system and the center, which offers two types of Saudi premium residency. 

Permanent premium residency has a one-time payment of SR800,000 ($213,000), and premium residency carries a yearly financial fee of SR100,000 and privileges.


Saudi Arabia announces 17 more COVID-19 deaths

Updated 27 November 2020

Saudi Arabia announces 17 more COVID-19 deaths

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 345,622
  • A total of 5,857 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

LONDON: Saudi Arabia announced 17 deaths from COVID-19 and 302 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 70 were recorded in Riyadh, 28 in Jeddah, 18 in Yanbu, 17 in Madinah, 14 in Dhahran, 14 in Makkah and 8 in Dammam.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 345,622 after 407 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 5,857 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.