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In the lead-up to the upcoming Eid Al Adha holiday season, experts from the United Arab Emirates warn of a probable surge in cyberattacks and online scams, emphasizing the need for consumers to be extra vigilant during online transactions.
According to Gopan Sivasankaran, the General Manager of META at Secureworks, cybercriminals tend to capitalize on large-scale events such as holidays and festive periods. The height of summer, Sivasankaran explains, provides a ripe opportunity for scams as people lower their guard and actively seek last-minute deals for travel or leisure experiences and online discounts. Such conditions give rise to ideal circumstances for fraudsters to initiate phishing campaigns.
Attackers, Sivasankaran elucidates, have the ability to easily bait individuals with deal-themed communications—emails or messages—upon which consumers would normally lower their guard. The urgency of time-sensitive deals often discourages people from conducting proper verification checks.
Eid Al Adha, also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice,” is predicted to commence on June 27 and continue until June 30 for most private firms in the UAE, extending until July 3 for public sector organizations. During this period, numerous UAE citizens scour for deals on flights and hotels to maximize the long holiday’s potential. As one of the busiest travel periods in the country, it is projected that around 3.5 million passengers will use Dubai International Airport in the subsequent two weeks.
Sivasankaran states that these much-anticipated travel periods are often exploited by cybercriminals who utilize flight and hotel discounts to ensnare unsuspecting consumers in phishing schemes. Deceptive emails or texts purporting to offer exclusive deals, discounted tickets, or complimentary upgrades are sent to potential victims. These messages typically appear authentic and may lead to deceptive websites designed to extract personal information or coax victims into making fraudulent payments.
Notably, similar tactics are employed with hotels, with scammers sending phishing communications under the guise of discounts and limited-time offers to prompt quick decision-making and override caution. This manipulation of trust in the industries and the desire for travel deals allows fraudsters to exploit the eagerness of individuals to lock in lucrative offers.
The surge in financial activity during this time, as UAE citizens rush to make bookings, is a “gold mine for fraudsters targeting potential victims,” says Emad Fahmy, Systems Engineering Manager for the Middle East at NETSCOUT. Fahmy anticipates that phishing and malware attacks will be the most prevalent scams during this period.
Fahmy further advises consumers to remain cautious of transactional activities and, when in doubt, contact their respective banks. He encourages the enabling of multi-factor authentication and advises against downloading applications from unofficial sources. He aligns with Sivasankaran’s sentiments and recommends keeping software updated. Fahmy adds that software updates often comprise security patches that can help protect the user’s computer from malware attacks.