Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fraudsters cash in on generosity of Arab users?

It’s a known fact that the latest viruses and malware depend on ‘social engineering’ concepts to spread widely. What this basically means is that these malware writers attempt to tap into typical user weaknesses, like claiming that an attached file includes special surprise- a prize, or images of a beautiful women, or the solution to a problem .... and more.

Nowadays, techniques to infect a user’s PC even include soliciting a visit to an infected website, which will damage a user’s PC. To quote a warning from TrendLabs, “a number of new attacks take the form of commentary on current events, especially natural disasters. When concerned individuals visit a nominated website to offer their assistance, they receive misleading instructions to download spyware or visit a compromised website.”

"Recent history has proven the effectiveness of these techniques. The warning goes onto explain that “events such as the recent flooding in the western Yemen, the Pakistan earthquake of 2005 or even the fatal poisonings of almost 2000 camels in Saudi Arabia provide the kind of stories with which devious operators can get a toe-hold in an individual's computer.”

Apperantly, TrendLabs actually think that users in our region are more susceptible to these schemes than others across the world!This interesting, and rather entertaining announcement from TrendLabs goes as far as saying that “Internet criminals are exploiting regional traditions of generosity and hospitality”.

Well, first of all, we thank Trend Micro for deciding that we’re the most generous users in the world, but we tend to disagree, and even object, to the notion that we are ‘gullible by tradition’!

The company cites “the rapid take-up of personal computing and Internet access in the Gulf region which has meant that many first-time users are exposed to some long-established online scams.”I don’t think users in the region are that naive, or any worse in this regard than users in emerging areas of the world like China, India and Eastern Europe. For a start, most scams come out of those countries anyway, and are even prepared in their local languages. Surely, they are more vulnerable!

On the plus side, rather than just focusing on the negative ‘gullibility issue’, there’s the good publicity we as Arabs are getting as being ‘good intentioned people’.

The announcement says that “People's good intentions lead them to websites that purportedly help out the victims of earthquakes, floods or other natural disasters, but these open the door to malware and identity theft.”

So, people in our region have better intentions and are more innocent than other regions of the world?

Sorry, but I doubt it. It’s just marketing spin aimed at the region, but there obviously is a serious worldwide problem behind this story. Yes, you should take note of such scams, but don’t be too concerned about them being aimed at us ‘generous an gullible’ Arabs.

It’s just a case of human behavior and inexperience, no matter where you’re from!


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