As many as 75 percent of enterprises in the United Arab Emirates have no policy in place for protecting sensitive data from hackers, a U.K. university study has concluded.
According to a news report, researchers at the U.K's Coventry University found that most companies in the UAE have a low awareness of computer security threats in comparison with other countries and regions.
Internet security firms have previously warned that the Emirates is becoming a popular target for cybercriminals, though the alerts have apparently fallen on mostly inattentive ears, the report says.
"The issue is not taken very seriously by the majority of companies," said Messaoud Saidani, a member of the Coventry University engineering and computing faculty and one of the report's authors. "People get on with their daily business not fully aware of the real threats around them. For a place such as the UAE, which is a business center for the region, the level of vulnerability is disturbing."
There have been 1,600 known Stuxnet infections in the UAE since the virus appeared in July, said Costin Raiu, a director at the Moscow-based computer-security firm Kaspersky Lab.
"Obviously, Stuxnet being a very serious threat, one could assume that it should be handled with high priority, although the data clearly doesn't indicate" that is being taken seriously in the UAE," Raiu said.
Kaspersky claims that 56 percent of cyberattacks within the region are directed at the UAE. Moreover, there is a high level of ignorance about the techniques used by cybercriminals, said Fadi Aloul, assistant professor of computer engineering at the American University of Sharjah.
Aloul recently devised an experiment to test student awareness of phishing techniques, according to the news report. Almost everyone who took part was duped by the ruse.
"There's a general lack of awareness here," Aloul said. "You need to educate people on the tactics used by hackers, and it's a continual process as their techniques change."
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