Fighting the scourge: Middle East businesses can protect themselves from evolving cyber threats

By Scott Manson, Security leader for the Middle East, Cisco

 

Protecting a business from external threats is a lot like fighting off a mosquito something that we regularly have to contend with here in the Middle East. Businesses are often not aware when a cyber-attack infiltrates their network, but after a while, tell-tale signs – like buzzing around your ear – alert them to the intruder. They deploy their best defence mechanisms but there’s no way to know how long the attack has been in their network and what damage it’s caused.

 

New technologies like cloud computing, business-class video, and collaboration and device management tools are regarded as blessings to businesses in the Middle East today. They are increasing productivity, helping businesses reduce costs and, most importantly, enable the Internet of Everything (IoE), which is driving growth and enhancing social and economic wellbeing. But they can also be a curse. This transformation in business IT has seen many Middle Eastern organisations opting for hosted virtual infrastructure, which is particularly appealing to cybercriminals who are using advanced attack techniques.

 

Cyber threats are evolving and Middle East businesses are not immune to them. They’re becoming more complex and therefore more difficult to detect and prevent. Criminals are using hybrid attacks that combine hacking, phishing and malware to target global systems, applications and networks at a higher and faster rate than ever before.

 

The rise of trends like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and cloud computing, while beneficial to businesses, are adding fuel to an already raging fire. According to Cisco’s 2013 Middle East ICT Security report almost two-thirds of employees in the region are allowed to use their own devices to access the company server or network, yet 65% of employees do not understand the security implications of using personal devices in the workplace, thereby exposing the company server or network to high degree of IT security risk. While it seems employees in the Middle East are well aware of the benefits of technologies like cloud computing and business-class video to their productivity, more education on security awareness is crucial.

 

This education must be combined with robust security infrastructure. Current defences are no longer fit for purpose. We need a different kind of repellent, one that prioritises network visibility through continuous, real-time monitoring using agile and open platforms.

 

While repellents and ceiling fans may keep mosquitos at bay, the only way to ensure you don’t get bitten is by squishing them with a well-timed slap. Similarly, while current IT defences might make it difficult for cybercriminals to reach your mission-critical infrastructure, chances are they’ll find a way. And by the time you realise that your systems have been breached, it might be too late. If you’re lucky the threat will go away after patching up many security holes. If not, the damage could be irreparable, if not fatal.

 

About Scott Manson:

Scott leads Cisco’s Cyber Security Sales and Operations across the Middle East and Turkey region. He joined Cisco in September 2010 as Regional Manager for Emerging Markets taking Cisco’s then new Secure Next generation Data Center and Cloud Computing offerings in to the Middle East, Africa and Russian markets. More recently over the last two years Scott lead a team of sales specialists and consulting engineers to take the same innovative solutions and go-to-market structure that worked in Data Center for our customers, across Cisco’s adjacent portfolios in Networking and Collaboration. Scott has over 18 years of experience in Information Technology sales and consulting.  His technology background includes Data Center Infrastructure, Security and Management, Middleware and Application technologies. He is ITIL certified and versed in the principles of Business Service Management (BSM). 

 

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