Outlook 2021: Cloud Solutions Are Driving New Cybersecurity Requirements

Majd Sinan, the Country Director for UAE at Trend Micro, speaks about the opportunities 2021 brings along

How was 2020 for the industry and your company?
2020 was the most challenging year for all industries – cybersecurity included. We faced new challenges with coronavirus, working remotely, and social distancing during the lockdown – all of these impacted our business and our projects with our clients and partners in the region.

Many industries and companies have seen an increased demand in cybersecurity solutions for working from home. In the GCC, Trend Micro detected a combined 56,873,271 email, URL, malware, and banking malware attacks during the first half of 2020, according to the Midyear Security Report.

Worldwide, COVID-19 related threats have been the single largest type of threat. In the H1 2020, Trend Micro blocked 8.8 million COVID-19 related threats, nearly 92% of which were spam delivered via emails. In the GCC, Trend Micro blocked 163,774 COVID-19 threats in attacks via URL, email spam, and malware.

What sort of opportunities did 2020 bring along?
In 2020, as many enterprises had to work remotely or in hybrid models, they also adopted cloud and videoconferencing solutions – in turn driving demand for cybersecurity solutions for these platforms. Before the pandemic, many companies had only partial cybersecurity for these platforms, as it was only occasionally or rarely used. Now, every employee has remote access to infrastructure and uses videoconferencing – and these systems have to be ready from a cybersecurity perspective.

Cloud solutions and remote access to data are driving new cybersecurity requirements and demands, including revised cybersecurity policies and for users, employees, and offices. More than ever, Middle East organizations need to have the right cybersecurity solutions and policies in place that can both secure their IT infrastructure and also make remote and hybrid working environments efficient for employees.

What were the challenges that you faced in 2020?
The coronavirus pandemic brought many challenges, to which Trend Micro had to adapt quickly to support our customers and partners. We had to respect the health and safety measures while doing business, such as by enabling our own remote workforce and holding business meetings via videoconferencing tools.

Since the lockdown, nearly four-fifths (82%) of remote workers in the UAE say they are more conscious of their organization’s cybersecurity policies, according to Trend Micro’s recent study “Head in the Clouds.” However, many employees are still breaking the rules due to limited understanding of resource constraints. Trend Micro is educating organizations about not having a one-size-fits-all cybersecurity strategy, but rather tailoring their cybersecurity strategies to the most common information security “personas.”

What were your key achievements in 2020?
We are most proud of supporting our UAE and MENA customers and partners to meet their cybersecurity needs during the pandemic, and to help them securely maintain business continuity. Our customer satisfaction and success has actually increased, as we have helped them to deliver a sustainable recovery.

We recently held our 10th CLOUDSEC conference, the largest virtual cybersecurity event across the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, with 21,000 registrants attending three days of keynotes and more than 260 breakout tracks. Trend Micro is seeing strong success and feedback from our expansion and enhancements to our channel partner program in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa (AMEA).

Helping to nurture young talent in the UAE and the region, Trend Micro and CyberTalents have hosted the 6th annual UAE Capture the Flag (CTF) Competition in the UAE, and in Arab and Africa. The UAE hosted 10 teams and 24 players and recently collaborated with Dubai Police on hosting their own Capture the Flag.

The UAE-based United Arab Bank (UAB) replaced its legacy anti-virus software with Trend Micro solutions running on a secure digital platform for full network visibility and management for virtual patching, malware protection, user behavior, and malicious activity for 500 users running 60 systems and apps on 1,000 servers. UAB reduced the time to manage encryption from 8 to 2 hours, detects over 80 percent of cyber-threats, and quickly deploys security agents.

What promises does 2021 bring along? Do you see opportunities on the regional markets with new markets opening up?
Hopefully, by 2021, we will be more able to communicate in-person, so we can do business faster.

Many industries that are very important to the Middle East’s economy – such as travel, tourism, entertainment, hospitality, and retail – will continue to come back on track, which means more demand in the market, more growth, and more need to secure IT infrastructure. In 2021, technology solutions will be more focused on securing remote access to data from smart devices or on the cloud.

Trend Micro is seeing strong business opportunities in MENA, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, aligned with nationwide digital transformation visions such as UAE Vision 2021 and Saudi Vision 2030.

Secure digital transformation is a major trend. In a recent Trend Micro survey of 2,064 business and IT decision-makers across the AMEA region, 79 percent wanted to learn more about digital transformation and cloud security, followed by threat and vulnerability research (62%), and risk and compliance (49%).

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2021?
Home networks, remote working software, and cloud systems will be at the center of a new wave of attacks in 2021, according to our 2021 predictions report “Turning the Tide.” Even in the post-pandemic world, remote working is likely to continue. Home networks, remote working software, and cloud systems will be at the center of a new wave of attacks in 2021. The most at-risk will be end-users who regularly access sensitive data, including HR, sales, or corporate financial data.

Trend Micro is seeing strong demand for our cybersecurity solutions in the hybrid cloud (Cloud One Hybrid Cloud Security); user protection for endpoints (Apex One); threat detection and response across email, endpoints, sectors, cloud workloads, and networks (XDR); and network protection from known, unknown, and undisclosed threats (Network Defense).

Threats against OT networks – the operational and industrial infrastructure – will be a major challenge. These kinds of threats can be mitigated with solutions such as Trend Micro’s TXOne Networks, which is helping us to secure our customers’ OT or IoT with their IT infrastructure seamlessly.

What will be your key focus areas for 2021?
Trend Micro will continue to help our new and existing customer and channel partners to secure their infrastructure and help them enhance securely drive digital transformation and digital business innovation. Our focus industries will continue to include government and public sector; energy, oil and gas; banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI); healthcare; education; and telecommunications.

Our Middle East customers are seeing four key areas where Trend Micro can provide support, which we also demonstrated at CLOUDSEC: Cloud, DevOps, and Data Center Security; Enterprise Security Strategy and Architecture; Threat Hunting, Incident Response, and SecOps; and Threat Research and Intelligence.

What milestones have you set for 2021? What would you like to do differently in 2021, when compared with 2020?
In 2021, Trend Micro plans to further emphasize the importance of cybersecurity to Middle East organizations, enhance our channel partner program and solutions portfolio in response to market demands, and hold virtual and in-person events, where appropriate depending on health and safety requirements.

As we being to enter a post-pandemic world, UAE and Middle East organizations better understand their IT infrastructure, their cyber-threats, and the types of cybersecurity solutions that they need moving forward. Trend Micro is supporting our customers and partners in helping them move forward to the next level of business. This past year was all about surviving: now it’s time for businesses to thrive, with comprehensive cloud security as their foundation.

In 2021, as social distancing will still be needed, Trend Micro will do all we can to secure our team, our customers and partners, and everyone in society. When these social distancing measures are lifted, we will be eager to return to doing more business in-person rather than online or through videoconferencing.

Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2021?
Cybersecurity is a dynamic industry – with increased emphasis on securing hybrid cloud platforms. We will continue to deliver new technologies and solutions to enhance the cybersecurity visibility and resilience of our customers, with a great example being our XDR solutions for cross-detection and response.

One of the biggest challenges for Middle East organizations is the inability to detect and respond to advanced threats, according to 32 percent of AMEA survey respondents. As cybercrimes become more sophisticated and security operations more complex, organizations also face shortages in security skills.

Our “Turing the Tide” report says organizations should follow a four-step process to mitigate threats:

  • Foster user education and training to extend corporate security best practices to the home, including advice against the use of personal devices.
  • Maintain strict access controls for corporate networks and the home office, including zero trusts.
  • Double down on best practice security and patch management programs.
  • Augment threat detection with security expertise to protect cloud workloads, emails, endpoints, networks, and servers round-the-clock.

Any other info you would like to add?
Trend Micro’s return to GITEX was a very exciting moment – as we were among the pioneers in being part of the world’s only live, in-person global technology event in 2020. Our participation at GITEX emphasizes that the recovery is coming fast, the IT industry needs to be smart in following safety and security measures.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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