Saudi cybersecurity experts explain cookies, data and privacy infringement

Saudi cybersecurity experts explain cookies, data and privacy infringement
Cookies themselves are harmless because they cannot hold codes so cannot contain viruses, but they can be a cause of malicious activities. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 30 January 2021

Saudi cybersecurity experts explain cookies, data and privacy infringement

Saudi cybersecurity experts explain cookies, data and privacy infringement
  • Cookies are text files containing information — like a username and password — that is saved about someone when they visit a website

RIYADH: The impact and necessity of the internet is more obvious than ever as it is the main source of communication, entertainment, information and shopping for many people. One of the most important uses of the internet is also one of the most simple — visiting websites.
Saudi Arabia has been a target for cybercriminals, and authorities have warned people to be careful when disclosing their personal information to unofficial parties. The matter has become a priority as the Kingdom is making significant investments in various sectors and is rapidly advancing. But one issue has been partially undermined by everyday internet users — cookie security.
Cookies themselves are harmless because they cannot hold codes so cannot contain viruses, but they can be a cause of malicious activities involving personal data. Many Saudis browsing the web do not understand or realize that the problem lies with using suspicious or sketchy browsers. They may seem legitimate but, in truth, they have security holes that can inadvertently leak personal information to malicious users and hackers.
Research company Our World in Data said that, globally, the number of internet users increased from 413 million in 2000 to more than 3.4 billion in 2016. The 1-billion threshold was crossed in 2005. It also said that, every day over the past five years, an average of 640,000 people went online for the first time. As for websites, tech marketing company Indivigital said there were more than 1.8 billion websites online in 2019 and that approximately 14,281 new websites were being created every day.
However, when visiting almost any new website for the first time, users can come across a little pop-up informing them that they need to accept cookies for the site to function properly. Sadly, nobody is being offered a delicious baked good. Instead, when accepting cookies, people are providing the site with a little packet of personal information.
Saudi cybersecurity experts Dina Al-Sharif and Abdullah Al-Gumaijan gave Arab News the lowdown on cookies — what they are, what they are used for, and how to ensure the safest browsing experience — to increase awareness about them.
HTTP cookies are essential to the modern internet, but they also pose a risk to privacy. Cookies help websites remember users, their logins, and more. But they can also provide hackers and cybercriminals with information that they can use against people.

HIGHLIGHT

Many Saudis browsing the web do not understand or realize that the problem lies with using suspicious or sketchy browsers. They may seem legitimate but, in truth, they have security holes that can inadvertently leak personal information to malicious users and hackers.

Cookies are text files containing information — like a username and password — that is saved about someone when they visit a website. Whenever someone visits a website, their computer sends this information automatically as a way of recognizing repeat visitors.
“The main goal of cookies is to identify returning users and improve the web browsing experience,” Al-Sharif said. “When you visit a website and accept their cookie, a text file is stored on the user hard disk which allows that site to store information and later retrieve it.”
Al-Gumaijan added: “For example, when you visit a site like Amazon and add items to the cart without logging in, if you visit Amazon again later you will notice those items are still in the cart. Amazon knows what those items are by using cookies.”
Since cookies are information provided by the same website being visited, Al-Gumaijan said that users were not really sharing sensitive information by visiting them. But most websites providing their content for free rely on adverts because the only means of income is to share user behavior with third-party entities, allowing them to engage in targeted advertising.
“If you visit a website selling used cars, and also search for specific car brands like BMW, you may start to notice BMW ads appearing on other sites, or when using social media,” he said.
According to Al-Sharif, cookies themselves did not necessarily pose a threat, but how they were used was still worth taking into consideration. “Before you accept cookies, websites are obligated to present their ‘cookie policy’ which you can read to learn more about how they are used.”
Cookies themselves are not harmful since the data in them does not change. They cannot infect computers with viruses or other malware. However, some cyberattacks can hijack cookies and enable access to a user’s browsing sessions.
Al-Gumaijan said that, for the most part, it was safe to accept cookies. But overly cautious users could try to opt for websites that allowed the option of rejecting them or using private browsing methods to avoid them.
“It’s important to keep in mind that general information about your activity on any website where you accept cookies will be shared with others. If this something that concerns you, you can use browsers that provide private modes such as Firefox and Google Chrome (incognito mode). This way, your activity will not be used next time you visit those websites.”
Removing cookies is also an option that can help users mitigate the risk of privacy breaches, but they can also reset someone’s browser tracking and personalization, making certain sites harder to navigate. Without cookies, users may have to re-enter their data on a site for each visit.


Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination
Updated 49 min 41 sec ago

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination

Yemeni conjoined twins ‘Yousuf and Yassin’ to fly to Riyadh under King Salman’s orders for medical examination
  • King Salman ordered a speedy transfer
  • The conjoined twins are expected to arrive within the next few days

DUBAI: Yemeni conjoined twins “Yousuf and Yassin” will finally get the necessary medical examinations they need after King Salman ordered for their direct transfer from Yemen to Riyadh for the possibility of a separation surgery.
King Salman ordered a speedy transfer for the twins and their parents, the General Supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center and renowned pediatric surgeon Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rabiah said.
The conjoined twins are expected to arrive within the next few days, state news agency SPA reported on Sunday.
King Salman has previously ordered the transfer of conjoined twins from Mauritania to travel to Saudi Arabia to separate them. Their father, who accompanied them, said the procedures for transferring the twins to Riyadh were carried out easily.


Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident
Updated 19 April 2021

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident

Saudi Arabia offers condolences over Egypt train accident
  • The train accident left 97 wounded after it derailed off its tracks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it expresses its deep sorrow for the train accident north of the Egyptian capital Cairo.
A passenger train derailed earlier on Sunday in the city of Toukh in Qalyubia province, injuring around 100 people.
“The Kingdom expresses its sincere condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims, and to the Egyptian leadership, government and people, wishing the injured a speedy recovery,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Four train wagons ran off the railway while the train was traveling to the Nile Delta city of Mansoura from Cairo, Egypt’s railway authority said.
(With AP)


Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region
Updated 19 April 2021

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

Saudi crown prince meets British PM’s envoy to the Gulf region

JEDDAH: Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman met with the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Gulf Region, Edward Lister, early Monday in Jeddah.

During the meeting, they looked into ways to enhance Saudi-UK bilateral relations and discussed regional and international events of common interest.

The meeting was attended by Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Saudi ambassador to the UK; Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan; Minister of Commerce and Minister of Information-designate Majid Al-Qasabi, as well as the British ambassador to the Kingdom, Neil Crompton.


‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns
A Saudi woman walks on a social distancing marker at a shopping center, as preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 3, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 April 2021

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns
  • Makkah police arrest 13 people for violating isolation, quarantine instructions

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced on Sunday that authorities have detected a surge of “worrying” behaviors in the Kingdom since the beginning of Ramadan, warning citizens to avoid ignoring anti-coronavirus health measures.

At a joint press conference between the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, MoI spokesperson Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub warned that the rising number of coronavirus cases in the Kingdom could potentially lead to citywide lockdowns, as well as the banning of certain activities.
“We must cooperate and not trivialize the dangers. We do not want to have to resort to tough measures,” he said.
Al-Shalhoub added that the Kingdom was continuing to crack down on rule-breakers and those who violate safety precautions, including people using social media to spread misinformation about safety measures and ways to circumvent them.
Meanwhile, Makkah’s regional police spokesman said that 13 people were arrested in Jeddah and Taif for violating isolation and quarantine instructions after they tested positive for coronavirus.
Preliminary legal procedures were taken against them and their cases were referred to the Public Prosecution. The MoI previously warned that violators will face up to a two-year prison sentence, a fine of up to SR200,000 ($53,300), or both.
Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly revealed that the Kingdom has seen a slight rise in the percentage of women contracting coronavirus, warning that the number of women coming forward to be vaccinated was lower than expected.
“We have also seen a rise in the number of female cases that become critical and end up needing intensive care. Women also make up 55 percent of the overall number of cases in the Kingdom,” he said.
The MoH announced that 917 new coronavirus cases were reported on Saturday, raising the total number of cases to 404,970.
There are now 9,445 active cases, 1,044 of which are in critical care.

INNUMBERS

404,970 Total cases

388,702 Recoveries

6,823 Deaths

Of the new cases, 402 were in Riyadh, 203 in Makkah and 131 in the Eastern Province. Baha and Jouf reported the lowest cases on Saturday, with just six cases each.
Al-Aly said that appointments for second vaccine doses would be automatically updated, following news that some appointments had been canceled. The Saudi strategy aims to immunize the largest number of people possible with at least the first dose, Al-Aly added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that more than 15 million people have benefited from its Eatmarna app.
The ministry said that only people who have taken at least the first dose of the vaccine will be permitted to perform Umrah, or pray at either the Grand Mosque in Makkah or the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Violators will be prosecuted for attempting to perform the pilgrimage without the proper permissions, officials said, adding that authorities are encouraging safety precautions in order to ensure safe, smooth, and seamless pilgrimages for all visitors.
There were 907 new recoveries reported in the Kingdom, raising the total number of recoveries over the course of the pandemic to 388,702. The Kingdom’s death toll rose to 6,823 after 13 new coronavirus-related deaths were recorded.
Almost 7.1 million coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Saudi Arabia so far.

The Kingdom is now delivering vaccines at a rate of about 1.32 per second, or 114,471 each day. About 20.3 percent of the Saudi population have now been vaccinated.

The last day saw the completion of 51,225 PCR tests, bringing the total number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to 16,174,957.

 


Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases
Updated 19 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases
  • The authority said crimes of financial and administrative corruption do not fall under the statute of limitations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Oversight and Anti-corruption Authority (Nazaha) said on Sunday it had initiated a number of criminal cases and legal procedures.
Among the most prominent cases, a retired major general and two retired employees from the Ministry of National Guard were arrested for obtaining SR198 million ($52.8 million) from local companies and one foreign company in return for helping them win contracts.
In the second case, the former director general of projects at the Ministry of Higher Education and five businessmen were accused of establishing companies and obtaining ministry projects through them, exaggerating prices, obligating other companies contracted with the ministry to deal with them, and obtaining funds. Work is underway to calculate the amount of money that was embezzled.
In the third case, an employee working for the Foreign Ministry was arrested for having disbursed approximately SR733,000, in an irregular manner, from an account of one of the Kingdom’s embassies.
In the fourth case, an employee of the Ministry of Information was arrested for issuing 328 media licenses and receiving around SR700,000.
Two employees at a regional branch of the Ministry of Finance were suspended after two citizens bribed them with SR126,000 out of a total amount of SR8 million agreed upon, in return for facilitating payment of financial compensation.
In the sixth case, three employees in the Education Department in one of the governorates were suspended for obtaining SR624,000 in cash installments from a businessman in exchange for facilitating access to seven projects amounting to SR3.2 million.
The seventh case was in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, where a notary was arrested in one of the regions for issuing a lost deed in an irregular manner to one of his relatives.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, an officer with the rank of captain working in a regional branch of the General Directorate for Narcotics Control was arrested for obtaining SR35,000 from an expatriate, in exchange for holding a case related to his brother.
A further case involved a bank employee in one of the Kingdom’s governorates who was suspended for obtaining SR21,000 from some of the bank’s clients in exchange for completing their financing procedures.
And the last case involved two employees working in a municipality who were arrested for receiving SR25,000.