Local internet users easy prey to cybercrime: experts

Ma Khim Myat kept staring at the beautiful skirt on her computer screen, her mind torn between whether to make an online purchase or not.

In the end, she decided not to shop online, remembering the horror stories of friends whose credit card information had been stolen after they used it for online purchases.

“It’s scary to give your credit card information online,” said the 28-year-old public relations consultant. “You never know who can have access to that information.”

David Shiffman, chairman and chief technology officer of internet security firm, ThinkCyber, said the concerns of Ma Khim Myat are not unfounded, noting that Myanmar internet users are not very conscious about online security, making them vulnerable to cybercriminals.

“During our work here in Myanmar we observed that both in the public and private sector there are many deficits in cybersecurity. In some instances even basic measures have not been implemented,” he told The Myanmar Times. “Ignoring these issues makes people very vulnerable.”
Shiffman, who has been in the country for a few weeks helping companies improve their cybersecurity system, warned the country could experience more serious cybercrimes in the future if people and companies do not take measures to protect themselves online.

“The term cybersecurity is frequently used in discussion, but there is a general lack of understanding, what it really means to secure your networks,” he said.
The cybersecurity expert noted that the rapid development of the country’s IT sector in the past four years, after decades of isolation, excites Myanmar citizens, and with the vast amount of information they are getting from the web, they have no time to ponder the dangers that come with it.
“Myanmar is going through an unparalleled technological boom,” he said. “More phones, laptops and computers are entering the market. There is so much new technology, yet little awareness about the dangers that come with this increased interconnectedness. That by itself… increases the vulnerability of users greatly.”
Myanmar’s internet and mobile revolution started when the previous government allowed Norway’s Telenor Group and Qatar’s Ooredoo to enter the telecommunications market in 2013, competing with the state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT).

With increased affordability and speed, the internet has become an indispensable companion to Myanmar citizen’s daily lives.
Since 2013, the number of internet users in the country has soared from 2 million to more than 39 million, while the number of SIM cards in circulation has risen by almost 400 percent, according to government data released last year.

Mobile penetration in the country reached 89.38pc last year, an exponential increase from the 6.99pc penetration recorded in 2012.
Expected to further fuel internet growth is the uninterrupted roll-out of infrastructure such as the increasing number of telecommunications towers from 3000 in 2013 to 11,700 last year. The country’s fibre optic backbone also grew from 7600 kilometres in 2013 to 31,000km last year.
Doron Landau, chairman of the Myanmar Israel Business Association, warned that the internet was created not to be secure and it is up to organisations and users to protect themselves from opportunists and people with bad intentions.

“The internet was designed to allow an easy and fast way to share information. Securing the information was never a priority, the consequences of which we can see in the current Facebook scandal, for example,” he said.

Landau, who has worked in Myanmar since 2000, said that while Myanmar is reaping the benefits of the rapidly developing telecoms sector, it is now having to deal with an increasing amount of cyberattacks on private and governmental organisations.

“People don’t yet understand the downside of a connected world,” he said. “This mindset needs to change for people to understand that the internet can be very dangerous.”

Landau warned that Myanmar is already on the radar of hackers, who have a tendency to prey on easy targets and those with lax cybersecurity.

“My friend had US$200,000 (K265.6 million) stolen from his account,” he said. “Hackers were able to gain access to his email account and to change the account number given to him by a business partner. As a result, he transferred the money to the wrong account. By the time he found out, the money was already gone.”

Florian Frank, director of business development for the consulting firm DLG, said the first step to protecting oneself from cybercriminals is to be aware of the dangers that lurk in cyberspace.

“There is a prevailing attitude in Myanmar that cybersecurity is all about hardware,” he said. “So a lot of organisations spend their budgets on firewalls and other security devices but mostly ignore the human component in their security infrastructure. After all, an organisation is only as strong as its weakest link, and all too often that is an employee.”

Frank noted that one of the things he likes most about Myanmar is the friendly and helpful nature of its people.

“Wherever I go, there is always someone there to help me, if I am in need of assistance,” he said. “Sadly, this can be easily exploited by people with malicious intentions.”

Florian noted that many day to day actions such as money transfers are still done offline.
“Things are moving rapidly,” so it’s better for banks and other businesses to think about the security of their networks.

Source : Myanmar Times

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