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Cyber Security- how safe is your home?
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 18 - 09 - 2015


Mariam Nihal
Saudi Gazette


Cyber security is a cause of great concern for every household. With recent alarming incidents in the Kingdom, we are made more aware of cyber threats and theft that can cause detrimental damage to society at a micro level. Saudi Gazette spoke to an expert in the field of security to decipher the exact cautionary measures to take and learn more about the prevailing hazards.
We spoke to Tamim Taufiq, Territory Manager, Middle East at Norton by Symantec. From the safety of your child to risks you take when you are traveling, we get down to the bottom of it all.
SG: Tell us about Norton's role in the Middle East.
TT: We live in a fast-evolving digital world, with technology advancing in ways we never dreamed possible. The world is literally a tap, swipe, or click away from us—but the reverse is true, too. This digital age is our new frontier and how we should act, behave, and govern in this connected world is not always clear.
Remaining secure is more important than ever with the increasing amount of time spent on the internet, rising smartphone penetration and growing rate of connected devices being used in the Middle East, making the region an attractive target for cyber-criminals.
Norton's role is to ensure its customers and their valuable information are protected across their devices including PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets – against threats such as malware, identity theft, device theft, and scams on social media.
At Norton, our objective is to educate consumers on how to remain safe and protect themselves, their loved ones and their personal or business assets and information.
We believe that everyone has the right to explore this incredible world. Everything Norton does is focused on protecting that freedom and our explorers.
SG: What are the most common cyber threats?
TT: Our recent 2015 Internet Security Threat Report highlighted some of the most pertinent cyber threats seen. While email remains a significant attack vector for cybercriminals, they continue to experiment with new attack methods across mobile devices and social networks to reach more people, with less effort.
For example, close to 90 percent of social media scams in 2014 were shared manually in Saudi Arabia, as attackers took advantage of people's willingness to trust content shared by their friends. The Kingdom notably ranked first in the Middle East and Africa region in regards to social media threats.
Social media scams can provide cybercriminals with quick cash, but many rely on more lucrative and aggressive attack methods like ransomware, which rose 113 percent last year.
Instead of pretending to be authority seeking a fine for stolen content, as we've seen with traditional ransomware, the more vicious crypto-ransomware attack style holds a victim's files, photos and other digital content hostage without masking the attacker's intention.
Victims will be offered a key to decrypt their files, but only after paying a ransom that can range from $300-$500—and that's no guarantee their files will be freed.
The Kingdom took the top position in the Middle East and Africa region in regards to ransomware attacks. Norton blocked an average of over 20 ransomware attacks each day in Saudi Arabia.
Mobile threats continue to rise as well. We saw in KSA that 16 percent of all mobile devices, monitored by Norton, had a mobile malware infection or attempted infection blocked in the last year.
For many children, the first interaction they have with the online world is gaming and the hobby can almost be considered a “gateway” internet activity.
Increased broadband penetration in KSA and the connectivity of local youth via their smartphones has made the regional gaming market boom.
As children grow older, their user habits and interests will evolve, therefore, we aim to help parents teach their children how to be smart online explorers.
All parents want their children to grow up to be courageous and confident, but more than that, they want to keep their children safe.
We help parents keep a caring parental eye on kids' online activities, but to also encourage them to start important conversations so their children learn to be safe online.
Parents can monitor their children's' online activities to check which sites they are visiting and how often, as an example, we actively encourage parents to openly talk to their children about what they are encountering online and take an interest in their hobbies to understand if there any risks involved.
SG: Talking about families, can you outline and explain how Norton helps solve tech faults and cyber threats they might face while traveling?
TT: Travelling with the family can be a stressful task for parents. Not only is the family's safety paramount, but also parents need to ensure everyone has a fun and memorable trip.
Sometimes, managing all different elements of the trip is hectic and can result in a technological disaster, such as losing or misplacing a device during the trip.
Also, making sure that the websites that are used whilst on vacation are safe and secure is important. Norton allow parents to secure devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs to keep the family safe from existing and emerging threats, keep usernames and passwords secure and help keep children safe while browsing online.
With Norton Family, as an example, parents can put limits on the types of sites each child can access, customise time limits, monitor social networking and searches and view their web history.
SG: Who is the biggest target of cyber threats? Is it gender based or a specific age group? Can you tell us more about how this impacts them?
TT: This is very simple: anyone who uses the internet or has connected devices is at risk, but we've also seen that those who spend more time online are more likely to be infected.
Consumers tend to only make security a priority only after it's too late and they have fallen victim to an attack. Great security is a recipe with two important ingredients: human security savvy (such as not clicking on suspicious links or opening email attachments from people you don't know) plus a robust security solution that goes beyond basic antivirus technology, like Norton Security, to help keep the bad stuff out.
It's like protecting your home – you take basic, common sense precautions to keep intruders out, like not letting strangers into the house, looking through a keyhole before opening the door, and locking your door when leaving.
Combined with solutions that further help keep out intruders, like a lock or an alarm system, you can help keep your home protected. The same is true of your digital device – exercise common sense and invest in a robust security solution to stay protected.
SG: What do travellers need to be most cautious of while traveling?
TT: Technology can benefit a traveller in many ways: checking into a flight via smartphone, making last-minute reservations for restaurants or local attractions, taking photos to commemorate a trip, and even getting a little help navigating an unfamiliar city.
However, when packing and planning for a vacation, how often do you think of mobile device security? Mobile security is probably the last thing on your mind, but it's critical.
We live so much of our lives through our devices these days; they're a repository of everything that is you, and you don't want that information falling into the wrong hands.
Here are some important things to look out for when travelling:
• First up, physical device security. Around the Middle East, parks and beaches are full of tablets and lightweight laptops, as well as Kindles and Bluetooth speakers, so it pays to be aware of just how valuable your possessions are. Don't leave them lying in plain sight or it could end up being an expensive afternoon in the sun.
As an extra security measure, back up all content on all your devices whether that means uploading your music collection to a cloud service, such as Norton Online Backup, or physically backing up your hard drive to another location.
Also, make sure any files you can't live without are safely stored somewhere else and not just on your smartphone. It's also generally good advice to keep your smartphone in a zip-up pocket or a secure bag if you're travelling in a busy city.
• Many public Wi-Fi and public hotspots (including hotel Wi-Fi) are notoriously unsecure, which makes them a lucrative target for cyber criminals.
Unsecured Wi-Fi can leave you vulnerable to “Man in the Middle” attacks, which is a means of spying on your Internet activity.
Cybercriminals using this tactic can capture anything you type, such as login credentials to websites, credit card and debit card numbers and any other personal information.
Avoid using public Wifi when entering sensitive information, such as online banking, making online purchases or logging into email.
Consider purchasing a personal Wi-Fi hotspot for a mobile provider or when using an unsecured Wi-Fi network, and use it only for topical reasons such as looking up directions or checking out the day's news or weather.
If you do not have access to a secure Internet connection and need to do access your bank account, consider calling the customer service number of your bank instead.
• Eid Al Adha holidays can be a fun time for travellers. On Facebook, you can have the option to approve all photos you're tagged in, and if anything unflattering pops up, you'll have to approve the tag before it is shown on your page.
Additionally, nothing screams “I'm nowhere near my home, come steal all my stuff!” like a public social media account with vacation photos popping up in real time and check-ins away from your home.
Criminals can gain a lot of information about you from a public social media profile such as your name, date of birth, the town you live in and more.
It would be a good idea to check and make sure your social account settings are set to only allow trusted individuals to see what you're posting.
Most of these tips you can do before your trip, which will allow you to concentrate on the most important thing - getting the most out of your trip!
SG: Is Norton advisable for every PC and software? (It recently advised Edge browser users against it.) Talk us through the technical barriers and easy access it can provide.
TT: Every device that is connected to the internet should be protected to safeguard against cyber criminals who are becoming increasingly cunning.
Norton has made security simpler than ever because it's more important than ever and offer protection across PCs, Macs smartphones and tablets.
Earlier this year we moved from nine products to one flagship product – Norton Security. The product is available via download on a subscription service (with backup option) with the flexibility to protect all of your devices – tablets, PCs, notebooks and mobile phones.
We also provide free technical support and a virus protection promise- if you're infected, one of our support agents will remove the malware. Saudi Arabia can contact our support centre in both English and Arabic.


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