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SMEs in Oman open to ransomware attacks
May 21, 2018 | 4:56 PM
by Times News Service
The report said the Middle East accounted for 4.75 per cent of global ransomware threats in the first quarter of 2018, while the figure for North Africa was 1.75 per cent. - File picture
 
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Muscat: Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Oman are vulnerable to ransomware attacks and other cyber threats, experts have said.

The affirmation comes in the backdrop of a report from Trend Micro, a multinational company that provides cyber security solutions, being made public.

The report said the Middle East accounted for 4.75 per cent of global ransomware threats in the first quarter of 2018, while the figure for North Africa was 1.75 per cent.

Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that blocks access to a user’s data or threatens to make it public, unless a ransom is paid. They are paid through crypto-currencies.



Alkesh Joshi, partner at Ernst and Young, said that SMEs might be affected since they may not be technologically ready.

“The biggest challenge for SMEs is that they are not as advanced. They may be more vulnerable because they may not regularly update their cyber security apparatus and newer threats keep emerging, including ransomware software,” he said.

Joshi added that temporary cyber security solutions to deal with ransomware threats wouldn’t be satisfactory, and that robust measures were needed.

“One can talk about using free tools to deal with ransomware threats, but their effectiveness is limited and one has to opt for licenced software to have a long-term solution at hand. Perhaps, the organisations or the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can set up certain firewalls to navigate these threats better.

“Also, the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Riyada) can help these businesses with threat management by helping them acquire licenced software at a bulk price.

“We cannot judge the whole sector (SMEs) to be on the same plane. Some of them are farther along, years and security wise, while others still lag behind,” said Joshi.

Ernst and Young dealt with ransomware threats through its cyber security services wing. We keep up with the latest threats and any new tech we may need to keep ourselves secure, Joshi said.

Firm offers solution

Trend Micro, which claims to have blocked more than 100 million ransomware threats for their customers in the last six months alone, disclosed that 99 per cent of threats blocked were from email and web traffic.

“Ransomware threats are constantly evolving, and no business is immune. As security experts, we encourage everyone to download our free tools, and inform users on the preventive measures, and ways to tackle the situation when affected. We recommend organisations raise awareness and train their employees regularly on these preventive measures, such as backing up data, and what has to be done when they encounter ransomware in emails or compromised sites," said Cherif Djerboua, Regional Tech Leader, Trend Micro.

“This helps to avoid being the victim of ransomware, as paying the ransom money does not guarantee that you can recover your data. There have been numerous reports of attackers asking for another ransom following the initial payment,” added Djerboua.

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