Samer Malak: MENA Companies Invest in Cybersecurity despite Recession
Samer Malak: MENA Companies Invest in Cybersecurity despite Recession

Samer Malak: MENA Companies Invest in Cybersecurity despite Recession

8 august, 20225 minutes to read
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Malware attacks are on the rise around the world, with hackers inflicting more and more financial damage on government institutions and private companies. MENA is no exclusion, so we decided to know more about the current trends in cybersecurity in the region and best ways to protect your data.

We talked to Samer Malak, Head of Channel and Mid Market – Middle East, Turkey, Africa at Kaspersky Lab, one of the leading cybersecurity companies in the world.

In terms of cyber threats, is the MENA region different from the rest of the world? What are the current cyber security trends in the Middle East?

— The Middle East, especially the Gulf region, is on a path of rapid digitization. As the level of digitization and connectivity increases, so does the region’s level of exposure to cyberattacks.

Currently we are witnessing a growing trajectory of ransomware attacks within critical infrastructure sectors.

Phishing scams and social engineering are an ongoing threat and continue to be a major tactic used by cybercriminals to steal personal information or launch advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks. We recently issued statistics regarding the phishing scams and social engineering in the Middle East and it shows a staggering increase by 159% in the second quarter of 2022, when compared to the previous quarter of the same year.

What countries can be called leaders in terms of the number of malware attacks in the region?

— The countries with the highest internet useage are often the ones most targeted. According to Kaspersky’s recent telemetry, the Middle East saw over 15 million spam and phishing attemps in Q2 of 2022, with the most targeted countries being Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Qatar.

What targets are hackers choosing now? Are these mostly government institutions or private companies? What sector can be called a leader by the number of cyberattacks?

— The government sector in the region is one of the most exposed targets when it comes to complex cyber threats. Finance, e-commerce and retail industries rank second. Basically, anything related to money and data gets a lot of attention. We are also seeing increasing attacks on critical infrastructure of heavy industries like manufacturing, oil and mining, chemicals and so on.

These attacks prove to be particularly dangerous because they can interrupt production processes or worst, affect people’s lives.
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Do you see companies in MENA cutting their expenses on cybersecurity amid the recession?

— On the contrary, companies in MENA are investing in cybersecurity. According to the Middle East Cybersecurity Market Report 2022, the Middle East cybersecurity market size is expected to grow from USD 20.3 billion in 2022 to USD 44.7 billion by 2027. Regardless of whether economy is booming or in recession, business continuity is necessary for every company. And, cybersecurity is an essential part of ensuring business continuity.

The rationale is simple, when business never stops, why would cybercriminals stop their attacks because of recession?

How Kaspersky sees its position among other cybersecurity companies in MENA?

— We are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year and have had operations in the Middle East for about 15 years. With quarter of a century experience, we continue to work closely with governments and key industries across the region doing what we do best – protect our customer and what they value the most. Our partner and channel ecosystem are strong and in the best position to cater to the length and breadth of customer needs as the region continues to digitally transform and embrace new technologies such as 5G, IoT and Artificial Intelligence.

In terms of numbers, Kaspersky’s market performance was driven by stable and positive results in 2021, particularly in the Middle East, where we reported a 24% growth in B2B sales.

Middle East and Africa Region Least Vulnerable to Ransomware Attacks in 2021
Israel was the most attacked country with 18% of all attacks in the region.

With the number of new startups increasing day by day, some experts call Dubai the future Silicon Valley. What advice would you give to such companies, how can they protect their data from hackers while having low budgets and little staff?

— Taking small steps, makes a big impact. The best ways to protect your business from cyber threats is to:

  • Keep all your software and operating systems updated.
  • Employees must have the minimum set of access rights — enough only to perform their tasks.
  • Invest in the right technology and partner with a cybersecurity company who can be your trusted advisor at all times.
  • Be mindful of the pros and cons of new policies like hybrid and remote working.
  • Have some data storage system rules to safeguard information at all times.
  • Know exactly where important information is stored, and who has access to it.
  • All passwords must be stored in a secure password manager. It will help your employees not to forget or lose them and also to minimize the chance that an outsider will get access to your accounts.
  • Educate your employees about cyber security and cyber threats lurking around every corner. Your employees need to know how to identify red flags.
  • Advise your employees to lock their computer when they walk away from the desk.

The UAE and especially Dubai are becoming a new global hub for crypto and blockchain. At the same time, the number of frauds in this sector increases. How can cybersecurity companies help tackle these issues?

— Since all crypto transactions take place online, it gives the users the luxury to stay anonymous. This is an attractive cover for cybercriminals, who keep coming up with new ways to steal investors' financial assets. To help companies protect themselves against crypto scams, Kaspersky recommends:

  • Being vigilant. Unexpected messages about the loss of money and accounts or transfers, gifts and winnings are almost always a trick;
Always checking links carefully. It’s best not to click on any links in messages from internet service providers at all — instead, type the address of the service into your browser;
  • Install a reliable cybersecurity solution to protect yourself against phishing. For example, Kaspersky Internet Security’s built-in anti-phishing and antifraud modules warn users about potentially dangerous sites before it’s too late;
  • It is good practice to make sure the online checkout and payment page is secure. You’ll know it is if the web page’s URL begins with HTTPS instead of the usual HTTP; an icon of a lock will also typically appear beside the URL and the address bar in some browsers will be green. If you don’t see these features, do not proceed.
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Al Kuwaiti identified the necessary steps to protect everyone against e-phishing.
8 august, 2022
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