Cyber Security Trends in the Middle East

The Middle East is already a very important geopolitical region for the world. Primarily known for its endless supply of crude oil, the Middle East accounts for approximately 31.2% of the global supply. The UAE waiving income taxes for residents is fueling the next big economic zone.

At the same time, the region is pacing rapidly toward a digital transformation. The MENA Digital Transformation is projected to grow at a 22.7% CAGR between 2022 and 2032!

While all these achievements provide an excellent stimulus for the Middle East, the region is becoming more vulnerable to bad actors. Especially, digital security, commonly known as cybersecurity, established itself as a major concern. Thankfully, the industry leaders recognize the threat. The Cyber security Middle East paradigm is seeing new trends as time progresses.

As a direct result, cyber security service providers in the UAE and Lebanon are coming forward, powering these trends for the future. In this post, let us inform you about the biggest cyber security trends.

Industry-Driven Innovation

There are plenty of cyber security companies Middle East that serve both local and international ventures. For many years, they were stuck on a standard security stack that applied to all businesses. However, cybercriminals like hackers and scammers happen to be equally competent in catching up to security standards.

The sheer momentum of cyber-attacks resulted in one of the biggest paradigm shifts we’ve seen in cyber security Middle East. Industry-driven innovation.

Instead of offering the same security stack across the board, security professionals are now tailoring the stack to specific use cases. For example, regional governments, banking, insurance, telecommunications, oil & gas companies, etc. need more enforcement simply because they’re more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

On the contrary, smaller businesses and individuals are not as big of a target for criminals. It’s not feasible for them to invest in the same security infrastructure as big companies. Cybersecurity vendors have also acknowledged the need of the hour and they’re readjusting their offerings for specific audiences.

Increased Regulatory Involvement

The naked truth of any industry is that it can’t grow without proper regulatory guidance. The government plays the most crucial role in developing digital compliance and paving the way for collaboration.

In recent times, different government bodies have been formed in the said region to prepare better for the upcoming digital revolution. In 2021, Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) enacted the ADGM Data Protection Regulations 2021. According to the new amendments, entities failing to protect personal data are subject to administrative fines of up to $28 million! In the ADGM Regulations 2015, the fine was capped at a mere $25,000.

A Widening Maturity Gap

By cybersecurity maturity, we’re simply referring to an organization’s understanding of what cybersecurity is and how they approach it. Typically, we can divide all entities into 3 distinct categories or tiers.

  • Tier 1: This is the top tier of businesses and organizations that acknowledge the need for robust cybersecurity infrastructure. They’re highly proactive in their actions and have sufficient budgets to incorporate dedicated security operations centers or cyber defense centers.
  • Tier 2: The 2nd tier of entities know about cyber security threats in the Middle East. They also know there are compliance laws to operate. But that’s about it. It’s merely a “box-ticking” activity for tier 2 organizations.
  • Tier 3: Mostly consisting of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals, this tier lacks the proper knowledge and budget to implement a robust cybersecurity infrastructure.

The maturity gap between these tiers has widened in the past few years. Large organizations have become more welcoming to modern security technology while small businesses are focusing more on other aspects of the business.

It’s a trend we don’t see changing anytime soon. This is happening in tandem with industry-driven innovation.

Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Problem

Over the past few years, organizations of all levels in the Middle East have realized the depth of cyber threats and where they stem from. It’s evident how much an organization is spending on cyber security infrastructure has nothing to do with how successful it is in mitigating risks.

Essentially, it comes down to individuals working at the organization that has the final say. One wrong click on the wrong website can bring the fort down within minutes.

Thankfully, the management of these organizations has started to realize the problem and they’re focusing more on team-based training than ever before. Holstering the basic knowledge of computer technology or even certifications is no longer enough to keep up with the changing cybersecurity landscape in the Middle East.

So, enterprises ensure cross-functional collaboration across departments to bring everyone on the same page. Educating individuals on phishing, email fraud, and how to identify shady websites is at the core of this initiative. They’re also investing more than ever before in training and refreshing the  IT professionals’ knowledge base.

The Use of AI will Become the Norm

2023 so far has been the year of artificial intelligence. The buzz may have started with OpenAI’s ChatGPT but the fire is no longer contained in chatbots. AI is disrupting pretty much every industry across the board, including cyber security.

Just like the rest of the world, cyber security events Middle East will largely be driven by artificial intelligence in the near future. At least in a digital security context, it’s a good thing. See, AI can process a lot more data a lot faster than humans can. Also, AI is not susceptible to human errors or biased judgment.

When delegated to artificial intelligence, the same if not better job can be done in a fraction of the time. Most importantly, AI is capable of predictive analysis that can help cybersecurity professionals predict attacks in advance.

Before the days of AI, traditional cybersecurity heavily relied on signature-based detection systems. Well, it still does. The process is simple. The infrastructure in place monitors oncoming traffic and compares it with a known database of threats. While this sounds like a foolproof method, you never know when hackers invent a new threat that no database has registered.

The broadening use of AI in cybersecurity is changing the detection systems from rules-based algorithms to machine learning. It can deal with a lot more data and learn to provide better security.

The Diminishing Return of Smart Workplaces

The trend of everything “smart” has been going on for a while. IoT devices powering smart homes as well as workplaces are the new “cool”. While automating many of the daily chores sounds relieving, it’s not a very good approach in terms of cybersecurity.

Essentially, the more smart devices you deploy, the more security breach points you create. If hackers can’t break into the primary network, they might try the central HVAC system. It sounds ridiculous at first but it’s a real threat.

To combat this counterintuitive effect of digitization, workplaces have started cutting down on the use of smart devices at workplaces. At the end of the day, deploying unnecessary technologies does nothing but put a hole in the bank account.

Wrapping Up

The world has never seen a stronger need for robust cybersecurity systems. The Middle East Cyber Security market is fueling a new uprising with enhanced practices. In the future, the participation rate will only increase to protect sensitive data.