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Over 90pc Mideast companies 'cyberattacked in 2017'

MANAMA, December 20, 2018

By Abdulaziz Khattak

About 94 per cent of companies in the Middle East suffered cyberattacks in 2017, critically putting to test the readiness of organisations against persistent threats.

The geopolitical situation in the region makes the Middle East a prime region for cyberattacks.
Most of the attacks recorded were made on critical infrastructure sectors such as oil and gas, compelling regional governments to go the extra mile putting in place policies to protect their interests and that of the business community.

The disclosure was made in a report commissioned by International Quality and Productivity Centre (IQPC), a global events company that among others is organising the CyberSec & DataSec Week Middle East in Dubai in February next year.

According to a new study by Gartner, the GCC countries are spending 66 per cent more than the global average for every data breach – the average cost worldwide is $2.1 million compared to $3.5 million spent by GCC nations.

The extent of the threats should make governments concerned, remarked analyst Sevag Papazian, a Principal with Strategy& in Dubai.

“Governments in the region have to act quickly in establishing foundational capabilities across all critical information infrastructure organisations. National governance models must be enacted to make sure efforts are co-ordinated across various agencies,” he said.

However, Papazian agreed that the task is just too big for governments to take on alone, and suggests that partnerships be struck with the private-sector so that a successful cybersecurity strategy is delivered.

The statistics are staggering. Last year, more than 300 cyberattacks were recorded and about half a dozen of these were data breaches, he stated citing a recent study.

The Gartner study further showed that 58 per cent of organisations had suffered public scrutiny due to a breach; while 34 per cent of these breaches resulted in more than half of a company’s systems being impacted.

In comparison to Europe, GCC nations take 260 days on average to identify and contain a data breach against an average of 138 days in Europe, stated the report.

All this is cost! According to a recent study sponsored by IBM security, the average total cost of a data breach in Saudi Arabia and the UAE combined is $5.31 million.

That’s a 7.1 per cent increase since 2017, while the global average was only $3.86 million. This puts the Middle East second only to the US, where the average cost of a breach was $7.91 million.

The Gartner study suggest that investments in this area are forecasted to reach $1.9 billion next year, an increase of 9.8 per cent over 2018.

"However, what is even worrying is that there are companies who are yet to realise that they have been attacked," said John Chambers, former CEO, Cisco.

"There are two types of companies: those who have been hacked, and those who don’t yet know they have been hacked," he stated.

All this onslaught had led to 46 per cent of Middle East and African (MEA) companies suffering from cyber fatigue, while 25 per cent of companies said lack of security personnel was a big obstacle.

According to Entrepreneur Middle East, companies can take several approaches to mitigate cybercrimes. These include:
• Securing of hardware by safeguarding user password and ensuring it is not shared or written down anywhere. Another effective way is the use of desktops, which are safer than laptops.
• Encrypting of all data, employee information and business information. This step is extremely important in operating systems and the timely updating of the software used. It is also vital that all data is stored separately and backed up.
• Ensuring all secured technology is backed up with insurance, due to the magnitude of the loss each attack can have. It is vital that expert advice be taken in this matter to understand the areas of impact.

Another big step to mitigate cybercrimes is to update the company staff on the looming danger. "With many studies suggesting that the prime reason for cyberattacks is the lack of awareness among employees, a security-focused culture needs to be created," said the expert.

"Educate staff on the danger of using unsecured networks, such as the ones at airports and cafes as well as accessing unsecured websites which is a breeding ground for hackers," he stated.

Additional strategies include restricting network admin rights; usage of effective firewall and anti-virus tools; and a foolproof cyber security strategy, he added.-TradeArabia News Service

Tags: Middle East | Oil | gas | cyber attack | Strategy& |

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