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Tue 2 Aug 2016 12:05 PM

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How quickly can a criminal access your WhatsApp?

UAE internet safety group demonstrates dangers of cyber crime

How quickly can a criminal access your WhatsApp?

Cyber attackers can take just 30 seconds to gain access to smartphone messaging services such as WhatsApp, said a UAE internet safety group.

Emirates Safer Internet Society (E-SAFE), a non-profit online safety organisation, launched the #SafeUpWhatsApp campaign by demonstrating how easy intruders can access private information.

It said a survey conducted by the Kaspersky Lab with B2B International in 2015 showed, despite the UAE’s relatively small population, it was the second most attacked country online in the Middle East, reported state news agency WAM.

Dubai Police’s Al Ameen Service received almost 300 calls from blackmail victims from 2013 to 2014.

Cases of trauma and attempted suicides have been reported by victims of online “sextortions” and blackmailing. In a neighbouring country, a man blackmailed 60 children and published 45 indecent photos of them online when they refused his blackmail. It led to many of the children becaming suicidal or aggressive.

In a survey undertaken by E-SAFE, 42 percent of WhatsApp users said they use the app “extensively” while more than 50 percent said they use it “moderately”. It found 88 percent would allow immediate family members to access their phone unattended, while 22 percent said they allow friends to access their phone. Meanwhile, 70 percent said they never log out of WhatsApp Web – a portal allowing users to access their WhatsApp account from a PC or other device.

A live demonstration on how a user could be tricked into allowing access to the messaging app was carried out by E-SAFE Emirati youth champion, Hussain Adel Al Hashmi, a student of Al Ittihad National Private School.

Dr Abdullah Al Meyhas, chairman of the E-SAFE Society said, "E-SAFE has an impressive spectrum of multi-targeted and scientifically designed proactive programmes in the pipeline – both for immediate action, incremental and sustainable future action. These include the National Awareness Roadshow, Corporate Parental Education, capacity upgrade of psychosocial professionals, internationally recognised studies on child online issues from the region and workshops aiding ICT Industries to develop child-friendly products, all to be seen in the coming months."

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