Werno Gevers, the Regional Manager of Mimecast Middle East, says his company continued to add strategic partners to its cyber resilience ecosystem and API development platform
How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
Following the major lockdowns of 2020, organisations embarked on rapid digital transformation. This year, most organisations followed a hybrid work model that saw some employees working from the office some of the time, in between periods of remote work.
The global cybercrime industry – already experiencing a period of unrestrained growth and expansion thanks to new attack tools and the growing digitisation of our everyday lives – is pouncing on the opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities in hybrid work models. These offer a plethora of potential attack surfaces, with remote working employees especially vulnerable due to the generally lower levels of protection against cyberattacks on home networks and personal devices.
The new hybrid way of working has certainly brought the issue of cybersecurity front and centre to boardroom discussions. This industry has never been more relevant. And because digital transformation journeys have been fast-tracked, a large number of organisations could not do their due diligence to protect their new cloud footprint.
We also saw a series of highly publicised ransomware attacks around the world forcing organisations offline and leading to major disruption of an organisation, their supply chains and critical national infrastructure. This forced organisations to sit up and pay attention to the importance of adequate cybersecurity.
What sort of opportunities did 2021 bring along?
As mentioned previously, the increased attention paid to the importance of cybersecurity certainly created opportunities for us across our entire offering. Our customers and partners looked to us as trusted advisors to help them navigate this new way of working and ensure they were adequately protected.
One area of focus that certainly became more relevant was the increased exploitation of brands online. Criminals capitalised on the fact that consumers were spending more time online for entertainment, shopping and making transactions, by impersonating their favourite brands to launch realistic and believable phishing attacks.
Mimecast conducted research among consumers and compiled a Brand Trust report that showed that 75% of KSA respondents and 78% from the UAE would stop spending money with their favourite brand if they fell victim to a phishing attack involving that brand. The research has cast a spotlight on the role of brands in protecting their customers from cyberattacks. Compared to a global average of 57%, this places the region’s consumers among the most unforgiving of all markets surveyed.
More than 80% of consumers in the region (83% in UAE, 82% in KSA) believe it is the brand’s responsibility to protect itself from email impersonation. A similar percentage said it is the brand’s responsibility to protect itself from fake versions of its website.
Implementing effective controls, such as brand exploit protection services and DMARC, can limit opportunities for criminals to imitate beloved brands and dupe their customers. This has led to an increased demand of Mimecast’s brand protection services.
Did you face any challenges in 2021?
Like any organisation we saw the effects of the pandemic continue to impact many of our customers. The last couple of years has been hard for many industries and organisations. And this created a knock-on effect for us. But we helped our customers wherever possible and helped them as best we could to navigate these difficult times.
What were your key achievements in 2021?
We supported a number of small, medium and large customers with their digital transformation journeys, by helping them to secure their valuable data and reduce their risk and exposure to cyberattacks. We launched Mimecast CyberGraph, a new add-on for Mimecast Secure Email Gateway (SEG) that is engineered to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help detect sophisticated phishing and impersonation attacks.
We continued to add strategic partners to our industry-leading cyber resilience ecosystem and API development platform. We also joined Exabeam’s XDR Alliance as a founding member. The alliance is a partnership of leading cybersecurity industry innovators committed to an inclusive and collaborative extended detection and response (XDR) framework and architecture. We continued to provide best-of-breed security solutions to our customers in order to stop bad things from happening to good organisations
What promises does 2022 bring along?
We will continue to be trusted partners to our customers, helping them navigate an increasingly complex and dangerous cyber threat landscape. We aim to grow our current offering, improving our solutions to keep up with the constantly evolving methods of cybercriminals.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
Cybersecurity solutions will continue to be in demand as cybercriminals continue to work overtime. What’s important is ensuring you have adequate security solutions to protect your entire organisation, that you implement defence-in-depth and that you ensure you have a suitable cyber resilience strategy in place. Take ransomware for example – the cyber threat that has made headlines and caused disruption throughout 2021. These attacks are not going anywhere and are only becoming more complex and dangerous. And the shift to remote work has resulted in the need to protect numerous new devices, leaving organisations more vulnerable to ransomware through unsecured networks.
The solution to ransomware does not lie with a single technology, entity, or idea. Organisations need an integrated security strategy in place as no single solution can provide adequate protection against ransomware – or restore full productivity and recover all data in the wake of a successful attack. Additionally, regular and effective cybersecurity awareness training for all employees in addition to improved security controls can help improve the overall resilience of the business and prevent or help limit the damage of these attacks and remove the need to pay ransoms.
What will be your key focus areas for 2022?
We will continue to protect our customers from cyberattacks and help them to reduce risk, cost and complexity at their organisations’ perimeters and reduce threats inside their networks. But we will also help protect their brands online, by preventing brand impersonation and reducing opportunities for cybercriminals to launch attacks on their customers. We will continue to work with organisations of all sizes but will be looking to increase our footprint in the enterprise space.
As the world of hybrid work becomes commonplace, we will work with customers to ensure their employees are secure as they work remotely and communicate using email and other collaboration tools. A key product we will be focusing on is the artificial intelligence offering that we launched this year. Mimecast CyberGraph uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help detect sophisticated phishing and impersonation attacks.
It is designed to detect anomalies and leverages machine learning technology to help organisations stay one step ahead of threat actors by alerting employees to potential cyber threats. We will continue to focus on supporting all industries with their cyber resilience needs since no industry is immune to cyber threats. But going into the new year we will have a strong focus on manufacturing, wholesale and trade, retail, and healthcare as we are seeing that these sectors are among the most targeted by cybercriminals.
What milestones have you set for 2022?
We will continue to grow and support our customers across the Middle East. This includes working with our strategic channel partners to reach new territories and untapped industries. But it also means ensuring our existing customers are happy, well supported and making the most of their Mimecast services. We also want to ensure that customers and prospects are aware of the importance of layered security and this will mean educating the market on the importance of a defence in depth strategy and why they cannot rely on a single cloud service provider for their cybersecurity needs.
What would you like to do differently in 2022, when compared with 2021?
After the disruption of the last couple of years, we really hope to be able to spend more time having a face-to-face meeting with our customers and prospects and hope to attend more in-person events. While there are certainly benefits to a virtual world, one cannot deny the importance of human interaction and the benefits of networking.