UAE residents have been warned to be on their guard following a recent spike in cyber scams and the resurgence of a virus designed to steal victims’ private financial information.
The country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said it had seen a new outbreak of the ‘Emotet’ virus, which if downloaded can allow personal details to be stolen remotely, worldwide. It also warned against fraud carried out through Snapchat links.
Meanwhile, another scam involving messages sent by WhatsApp or text message, in which criminals pose as bank representatives and claim a user’s ATM card had been blocked, has become increasingly “widespread” recently, authorities said.
Malicious cyberattacks were increasing with the perpetrators’ motives ranging from stealing money and property to “destroying large organisations and creating chaos in many countries of the world,” according to Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri, the TRA Director General.
“The UAE prioritised the happiness of its nation as a main objective of its future plans and visions, and this happiness can only be achieved by safeguarding the peoples’ property and preserving security,” he said. “We must make every effort to protect our good nation from shady intruders.”
Mr Al Mansouri vowed that the National Computer Emergency Response Team (aeCERT), set up in 2008, would continue to fight cybercrime on residents’ behalf.
The body, which is part of the TRA, “works around the clock to spread awareness among different groups of society on how to deal with viruses and hacking attempts,” he said.
It also makes recommendations around updating legislation and spread expertise in cyber security among businesses.
Authorities said people should be particularly vigilant around clicking on links designed to appear harmless but which could lead to malware being installed on computers. ‘Filters’ sent through Snapchat could also include viruses, the TRA said.
People have also been urged to ensure they have the latest software and security patches installed on their mobile phones by ensuring iOS and Android operating systems are up to date.
The Emotet virus, which the TRA is particularly concerned about, first emerged in 2014. Later versions of the malware was able to access contacts on an infected computer and send itself to them by hijacking email accounts. It can be missed by some antivirus software.
Emails containing the virus may try to persuade users to click the malicious files by disguising correspondence as coming from a reputable company and using language about “your invoice,” “payment details,” or possibly an upcoming shipment from well-known parcel companies.