By Shane McGinley
Users give away too much information and leave themselves open to extortion and defamation, officers said
Users of social networking sites reveal too many personal details while chatting with strangers, making them easy targets for hackers to steal their files and download their pictures and leaving them open to defamation, threat or extortion, a senior Abu Dhabi police said.
As part of a awareness-raising initiative aimed at combating cybercrimes, Colonel Dr Rashid Mohammed Borshid, head of the criminal investigation department (CID) at Abu Dhabi Police, also warned citizens and residents of the negative aspects of online dating.
He urged them to be cautious and refrain from sharing personal data or photos on such sites and highlighted the fact a new federal law has been enacted to prevent the use of these sites for defamation, threat, extortion or spreading rumours.
"To prevent cyber attacks and identity thefts, individuals need to be careful how and to whom they disclose their personal data; refrain from uploading personal photographs, and turn off their device's camera. They also need to review and adjust the privacy settings, and determine who has access to personal data,” Colonel Borshid was quoted as saying by the WAM news agency.
He said stolen data can be used to create fake accounts and harass and intimidate a victim’s families and friends.
"The Abu Dhabi Police took early notice of these crimes, and set up a branch at the CID's Organised Crime section to combat cybercrimes. The branch monitors suspected activities and takes legal and technical action against them, particularly in light of cybercrimes evolution and theft of bank account information through devices' software maintenance or anti-virus software, or through accounts hacking," he said.
He said the special unit of CID browse websites to identify and locate the suspects and the department has a forensic laboratory to examine electronic evidence.
"The cybercrimes rate in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is still limited compared to many cities around the world. Most of them are still in safe levels and do not represent a dangerous issue. Nevertheless, it is a scourge that must be curtailed through concerted efforts with community members," Colonel Borshid added.
As part of its awareness campaign, Abu Dhabi Police advised internet users to be suspicious of fraudulent emails offering financial prizes or claiming to offer money inherited from a deceased relative.
Experts at CID advised against opening anonymous links, files and emails and urged users to use more complex passwords and avoid writing their passwords down or revealing them to others.