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Mon 1 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Online retailers warned on cyber criminals

Online retailers were being urged to tighten their security measures as the holiday season approached at the end of 2006.

Online retailers were being urged to tighten their security measures as the holiday season approached at the end of 2006.

Although online shopping is a relatively new phenomenon in the Middle East and still not that widespread in comparison to Europe and the US, more and more people in the region are now doing their shopping over the internet, according to global security firm McAfee.

“At this time of year, it was common a few years ago for people to spend time on the phone or out at the shops on company time to get their festive presents. However, today the internet has become a part of everyday life for most people, with online shopping growing fast,” said Patrick Hayati, regional director, McAfee, Middle East.

The number of Middle East internet users is expected to double to 50 million people by 2009, according to figures cited by McAfee.

This growth has not gone unnoticed by cyber criminals, who use increasingly sophisticated techniques such as spyware, key-loggers and phishing techniques to cull sensitive information from online shoppers.

Areas such as the UAE and Qatar where internet penetration is high are particularly vulnerable, Hayati said.

“The incidence of phishing is very prevalent in places where internet penetration is high like the UAE, Qatar and some of the other countries around the region. It is less so in countries where internet usage has not picked up as a percentage of population,” he commented.

There are various measures online retailers can take to reduce online fraud, according to McAfee. Some firms have already started taking precautions against hackers sniffing credit card details in transit, but a substantial number do not adequately protect against the use of cloned or stolen cards, the firm said.

Actions such as asking for the card security code and ensuring goods are delivered to the card billing address all help to cut online fraud, McAfee said.

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