Cyber extortion cases drop in Oman

MUSCAT: After reaching an alarming level of cyber blackmail incidents in the Sultanate, electronic crime has seen a decline last year.

According to the National Centre for Information Security, the total number of cases registered fell to 1,414 in 2018 against 1,479 in the previous year.

“The decrease resulted from the combined campaigns that created awareness among the citizens and residents about the dangers of cyber extortions”, said Aziza al Rashidiya, Director of the Cyber Security Services.

The campaigns were launched by the Oman National CERT at the Information Technology in association with Royal Oman Police, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and the Public Prosecution.

The figures from the centre revealed that the largest number of cases were registered during the summer months with 163 cases registered in May, 129 cases in June and 117 cases in July.

However, 191 cases were registered in October, the highest in a single month.

While the lowest number of 58 cases were registered in March 2018, there were 113 cases in January, 79 in February and 112 cases in April.

After dropping to 68 in August, the number of cases rose to 133, 94 cases in November and 157 cases in December.

The director said that the rise in the number of people using social media networks provides an opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to violate privacy and use their personal data for illegal financial gains.

Electronic or cyber extortion is a criminal offense committed to obtain money, property, or services from an individual or institution, through coercion.

“People should be more cautious while sharing data on the web and social media due to the remarkable growth and development of online space locally and internationally,” she said.

In Oman, the Cyber Crimes Law stipulates strict penalties for violations.

Article 18 of the law states that any individual who uses the internet or any similar such tool to threaten or blackmail another individual into carrying out an act against his will shall be jailed for not less than one month and not exceeding three years.  A fine of no less than RO 1,000 and not more than RO 3,000 or either one of the two penalties are slapped on the violators.

If anybody is subjected to extortion, he/she should avoid contact with the negotiator, on the other hand, contact the competent authorities such as the National Center for Information Safety on 24166828 or e-mail cert999@ita.gov.om Or Royal Oman Police numbers 24569701 and 8007744.

It is also preferable to quickly close all the social networking accounts known by the extortionist and bound by the same e-mail address of the victim, and not to submit to any application for the protester.